Jan. 19 2022 10:08 AM

Michigan dairy checkoff used virtual events, digital interactions and in-person gatherings as springboards to connect with consumers and support communities.

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Partnerships with grocery retailers Busch’s Fresh Food Markets and SpartanNash encouraged customers to donate more than 220,309 gallons of milk to families in need during 2021.

2021 was a big year for the United Dairy Industry of Michigan (UDIM). Not only did the checkoff team increase its social and digital outreach, but it also rekindled live events, expanded efforts to help reduce food insecurity in local communities and sought new ways to connect consumers and farmers while sharing the importance of dairy foods in healthy diets.

“While we were excited to see each other in person more often this past year, valuable lessons learned from virtual events and digital communications continued to serve the checkoff and our dairy farmers well,” says Sharon Toth, UDIM CEO. “Our team channeled these learnings into even more creative and effective ways to build trust in dairy foods with consumers and support dairy sales to help sustain our farm families.”

Here are a few highlights of UDIM’s efforts on behalf of Michigan’s dairy farmers during 2021.

Reaching out to students

UDIM’s focus on schools and students touched thousands of kids, educators and parents:

UDIM hosted five virtual tours of Michigan dairy farms, as well as virtually visiting a dairy processing plant during 2021. The dairy processing plant tour was a long-standing request from students, teachers and followers, and proved to be a huge hit. The events reached hundreds of classrooms and more than 46,000 virtual visitors.

More than 1,000 teachers and parents registered 21,509 students to adopt one of four calves from Werth Dairy Farm as part of UDIM’s partnership with the Dairy Excellence Foundation’s Adopt-A-Cow program.

Five new classroom curriculum pieces were shared with 6,500 Michigan teachers with a focus on milk from farm to table for grades 2-4. Each teaching kit includes a teacher’s guide, activities, posters and adheres to academic standards. More than 2,897 have downloaded the materials.

The Moolah for Schools Grant program awarded equipment to 181 schools.

Communication workshops were hosted for Michigan State University (MSU) fourth-year large animal veterinarian students, MSU Dairy Club members and dairy science students.

Connecting with next-generation dairy consumers

To reach milk drinkers of the future, UDIM targeted the next generation of consumers:

A return to live events reopened the door to face-to-face conversations with consumers about the benefits of dairy foods. For instance, the UDIM team connected with the skateboarding community near Grand Rapids, Michigan, this summer to share the terrific way milk helps skateboarders refuel and keep their bodies at the top of their game.

UDIM delivered dairy sustainability messages to Gen Z and Millennial parents on social platforms and across the web with short, engaging video ads from our Milk Means More farmer influencers. The campaign ran for two weeks in the fall, resulting in 3.2 million impressions (number of times content is displayed) with lots of comments and engagement (interactions with a post) from our audiences.

Total social media engagements and impressions grew significantly. In 2021, UDIM attained more than 13.6 million impressions and more than 392,000 engagements.

In partnership with the Detroit Pistons and Planet Fitness, Michigan’s dairy farmers surprised Edwin Denby High School student athletes with a remodeled, state-of-the-art weight room. The facility is complete with a stocked fueling station of chocolate milk and meals, and new workout equipment.

Helping to reduce hunger

Through UDIM, Michigan dairy farmers continued their dedicated support of local communities:

Partnerships with grocery retailers Busch’s Fresh Food Markets and SpartanNash encouraged customers to donate over 220,309 gallons of milk to families in need this year. As a result of the 2021 milk drives:

SpartanNash and its customers raised almost $350,000 during its first-ever milk drive across 145 locations throughout the Midwest. That equals 127,465 gallons of milk donated. And seven independent Spartan-Nash stores raised more than 9,000 gallons for their small communities.

Busch’s Fresh Market customers donated 92,794 gallons of milk during two milk drives this year. This is the sixth year UDIM has partnered with Busch’s Fresh Markets on milk drives.

Additionally, these purchases resulted in incremental milk sales while building relationships with consumers.

Michigan’s dairy farmers gave deserving nominees an “advantage” by surprising them with a new refrigerator stocked with dairy and other nutrient-rich foods through UDIM’s Home Fridge Advantage program. UDIM awarded eight refrigerators, plus cash and gift cards for dairy foods during Detroit Lions home football games this season. Those individuals then chose a school or local food pantry to receive a “Forward Pass” to support dairy distribution to their community.

“These points only scratch the surface of the many programs underway on behalf of Michigan dairy farmers,” says Toth. “If farmers have any questions about these efforts or would like to be a part of sharing dairy’s compelling message, visit with local UDIM board members or contact our office. Our team is working hard to build on our learnings to continue connecting with consumers and increasing trust in dairy on behalf of our farmers. We’re looking forward to connecting at local events this year.”

Visit milkmeansmore.org to learn more about UDIM.

About the United Dairy Industry of Michigan

The United Dairy Industry of Michigan (UDIM) is dedicated to serving Michigan’s hard-working dairy farm families and promoting Michigan’s locally produced dairy products. UDIM is the umbrella organization for the American Dairy Association and Dairy Council of Michigan. These non-profit organizations provide dairy product promotion and nutrition education services on behalf of their funding members.