July 21 2022 10:22 AM

Sponsored content created by Marilyn Hershey, dairy farmer & Dairy Management Inc. Board Chair

Marilyn Hershey, dairy farmer & DMI board chair

It’s forgivable if the names Mr. Beast or CaptainSparklez don’t ring a bell with you.

But they may with your kids or grandkids.

Mr. Beast and CaptainSparklez have reached iconic status among a very key audience that is the focus of dairy checkoff efforts: the Gen Z consumer. Mr. Beast and CaptainSparklez are “influencers” with a combined online following well into the millions, most of them in the 9 to 23-year-old range.

These are the consumers and parents of tomorrow, and they are tuned into YouTube and not the 6 o’clock news. They also boast a spending power of more than $100 billion.

If the dairy checkoff wants to reach them, it must go where they are, which is social media. This is why checkoff strategies are present in various channels and working with influencers and gaming personalities, such as Mr. Beast, who incorporated his experience of virtually meeting farmers and learning about the true source of dairy into his platform.

For many years, dairy checkoff teams nationally and locally reached kids through school-based efforts and that will continue. National Dairy Council (NDC) and the state and regional network have built long-lasting relationships with school communities nationwide for decades, and that is no small task considering as of 2020, there were 130,930 K-12 schools in the U.S., an average of 2,618 per state.

But, a deeper surround-sound effort is necessary to connect with kids, who spend a good portion of their day in a virtual world. On average, children ages 8 to 12 spend 4 to 6 hours daily watching or using screens. That figure jumps to 9 hours for teens.

This technological aspect isn’t lost on schools, which have turned to its use in the classroom, a trend that was accelerated during COVID. The checkoff leveraged this opportunity to help close the gap between students and agriculture, bringing virtual farm tours into the classroom and expanding online lesson plans for educators to connect dairy’s health and sustainability to curriculum standards.

Even cafeterias are not immune to a more modernized strategy. While milk has been a generations-long staple of school meals, its consumption now is coming via new and exciting avenues. Checkoff teams are leading innovations such as smoothie and hot chocolate programs, coffee bars (featuring lattes that are up to 80 percent milk) and breakfast carts that make food – including dairy – easier for kids to access in their busy mornings.

There is work being done to enhance cafeterias to make them an inviting destination for kids. The checkoff-founded GENYOUth, for example, is leading a cafeteria renovation program and has provided nearly $40 million in non-checkoff grants and equipment to Fuel Up to Play 60 schools.

The checkoff also is conducting pilot tests with shelf-stable options and dispensing systems that could bring a new and exciting way for students to experience fresh, cold milk.

A modernized consumer has required a modernized approach and the checkoff is delivering.