Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) is fueling up for National Dairy Month by taking an intense look at reaching the next generation of consumers, Gen Z. In a webinar on May 24, Barbara O’Brien, president of DMI, identified Gen Z consumers . . . ages 10 to 23 . . . as “the generation setting themselves apart.” O’Brien kicked off the discussion by explaining how DMI’s interaction with students has evolved over the years.
When COVID-19 struck, DMI took Fuel Up to Play 60 completely virtual and found a silver lining despite the pandemic. The program maintained and expanded beyond previous measures reaching millions of school-aged kids as teachers and parents began instructing their children at home. Thought processes such as these have enabled DMI to dig deeper into the generation that collectively has a $100 billion spending power.
“Gen Z is changing expectations of brands by how they’re willing to spend their money. This can have an enormous impact on dairy as well as other categories,” stated O’Brien.
Gen Z’s perspective on food
“When it comes to food, this generation has a philosophy about balance. Healthy eating to them is feeding their body what it needs but what it also craves, which gives dairy a great opportunity for nutrition and indulgence in the products put in front of this generation,” explained O’Brien.
It’s no secret that this age group grew up mostly online and has consistently had information at their fingertips. O'Brien, along with many others, commends Gen Z for being digitally savvy and willing to dig past the potential rumors and myths. DMI is actively testing new programs, partners, vehicles, and messages to ensure dairy is staying relevant and that the content is resonant.
Anna Warden, executive vice president of communications at DMI, then dug into the “how” of reaching further into Gen Z. “Dairy farmers have been supporting ways to ensure kids get a good start to a healthy life for a long time — particularly through their long-standing commitment to school nutrition — and the checkoff has boosted its focus toward the audience,” explained Warden.
The reality is that this generation hears opinions about what food to eat well beyond the classroom and cafeteria walls; they are bombarded with thoughts on what is supposedly good and bad for them through social media, celebrities, friends, and more.
“Having more choices for food now than ever before plus being the generation most disconnected from where their food comes from leads to growing questions whether dairy is good for animals, the environment, and more,” said Warden.
Meet them in their space
This ultimately adds up to making it critical to highlight that milk and dairy have an unparalleled combination of nutrients that are made with care and whose taste cannot be matched. This has led DMI to adapt to meet Gen Z where they are. The generation is interested in knowing where their food comes from, so DMI is enabling younger dairy farmers to show up on various social media platforms to tell the story.
In another example, Warden said, “DMI has tapped into the love of video gaming to capture Gen Z’s attention and how dairy products fit into these occasions throughout the day.” The goal here is to show how dairy can provide gamers with an energy boost or tasty pick-me-up during long stretches of gaming. This is exactly how the program "Beat the Lag" got started after some research and discussion in the fall of 2020 with YouTuber Jordan Moran, otherwise known as CaptainSparklez on YouTube with 11 million fans.
"Gen Z is less interested in vitamins and minerals and yearns more to know what foods can do for their bodies," explained Warden. Since the inception of utilizing Minecraft and YouTube to promote dairy last fall, the number of people reached by Moran has been beating industry standards far and beyond.
“I eat a lot of dairy myself, so getting to work with the industry as a whole seemed like a natural link,” Maron excitedly stated. Recently, Maron and his YouTube counterpart, Rosana Pansino, launched a contest to promote dairy-based recipes with video game-based prizes.
Seeing is believing
Last fall, Maron was able to virtually visit Nevin Lemos’ California dairy and said he was amazed at the stuff he learned. Lemos stated that Maron asked awesome questions about the farm itself and the overarching business as a whole.
Lemos is a fourth-generation dairy farmer who started farming 400 milking Jerseys as his full-time career just four years ago at the age of 20. Lemos agreed with the consensus of the group that Gen Z is able to cut through the noise in order to reach more accurate information and hopes that they will continue to look deeper for something real, which is where Maron’s YouTube engagement really kicks in.
On another important note, DMI is partnering Fuel Up to Play 60 with company GoNoodle to create a video game for younger Gen Zers. The platform became massively popular over the past year when in-person physical education classes had to be turned virtual. Additionally, DMI will launch a video on World Milk Day, June 1, to show the fun and entertaining side of young farmers when they’re not working on the farm. “In order to be memorable, you have to tap into the emotions Gen Z cares about,” responded Warden. “They don’t want to be talked at but engaged with.”