Meet my girl Grace and her sister, Eve. Their suburban classmates are generations removed from agriculture. Little do they know that they and their Gen Z peers, those born between 1996 and 2010, will transform dairy markets in the next five years.
The 61 million members of Gen Z grew more massive than the Millennials this year, according to Forbes magazine. The bulk, who are still in their teens, control up to $143 billion in direct spending, with food as a popular category. Gen Z also influences its parents’ grocery purchases like never before, as many learned at the 2019 Dairy Experience Forum conference in St. Paul, Minn.
Grace, Eve, and their Gen Z classmates never knew a world without cellphones, and they use them to effortlessly research ingredients, taste, and packaging before food shopping.
National and regional checkoffs collectively opened a direct pipeline to these increasingly powerful consumers more than 10 years ago when Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin joined forces with Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), National Dairy Council, other states and regions, the National Football League, and the United States Department of Agriculture.
As partners, we created Fuel Up to Play 60, the nation’s most extensive in-school wellness program. Its name reflects a goal to achieve 60 minutes of daily exercise and to build stronger bodies with healthy eating habits that include dairy products.
Destinee Ramos, a student ambassador for the program from Neenah High
School, added that Fuel Up to Play 60 gives students a much better understanding of dairy’s benefits and how farmers produce it.
The program reaches 175,000 students in 500 schools annually in Wisconsin and educated 3 million state youth since the program’s inception. Ninety percent of participants report they consume more dairy. In November 2018, a study showed a 5.6 percent increase in milk sales at Wisconsin schools and a 21.3 percent boost in yogurt sales for the year.
A range of creative offerings, including smoothie bars, snack shacks, taste tests, and grab-and-go breakfasts, engage students. These innovations emphasize the benefits of eating dairy and earned the program its “best in class” status. Fuel Up to Play 60 also arranges farm tours, so more students can meet dairy farmers, experience their long working hours, and feel their respect for their animals and the land.
Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin will continue outreach to Grace and Eve’s generation that craves information about our products. We will listen to these consumers who may push us to tweak our business model. They will help us seek creative and fresh programs to grow markets by tapping into their unprecedented buying power.