That’s the modern-day question millions of Americans are asking as they expand their dairy intake.

In 2021, that expansion saw Americans consuming nearly 667 pounds of dairy products per person. That is the highest level of domestic per capita consumption since 1959. The question that titles this article has quickly become a driver of not just purchasing but also social license in the dairy aisle.

“Let's just take a step back here and define a social license,” explained Cornell’s Chris Wolf during the October 12 Hoard’s Dairyman DairyLivestream. “It is the acceptance of a business or industry's practices by the public and relevant stakeholders. It's important for many reasons, but the most fundamental aspect is that without social license, industries end up regulated and monitored.”

Fortunately, agriculture enjoys relatively strong levels of consumer trust along with the entire food chain. Yet, it is the responsibility of the supply chain to maintain and grow that social license.

Albertsons Companies’ senior strategic sourcing manager for dairy, Jordan Clark, said that process begins by understanding the value of dairy to consumers.

“Now, because dairy is so tasty, its value is compelling to consumers for that reason alone,” he explained. “It's really encouraging to hear that per capita consumption is growing, and it maybe shouldn't be so much of a surprise because dairy ingredients are so dynamic and they're so functional to make all sorts of meals taste amazing.”

While that is true, he said the grocer still receives many questions related to how the products are produced, how animals are treated, and the environmental impact of the supply chain.

“Today, people are understandably more conscientious about how the food they eat fits in with their values,” Clark detailed. “Where's my food coming from, and does it feel good on my tongue and in my heart to eat it? That's a very modern question.”

It has a very modern, very detailed, and very complicated answer. The food supply chain is complex and at times difficult to explain. That’s why Clark emphasized the importance of simple, clear messaging that returns to the heart of what dairy is.

“As I pondered on this question, I kept going back to how delicious dairy is and how much that creates such a compelling value for the customer,” he concluded. “Given that we have a social license today and we want to preserve it, I think it's really important that the dairy industry continues to do the good things that we're doing to reduce our environmental impact, to ensure and validate that our ingredients and our products are being sourced ethically, and to keep pace with that conscientiousness of consumers so that we can preserve that social license.”

To watch the recording of the October 12 DairyLivestream, go to the link above. The program recording is now also available as an audio-only podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and downloadable from of the Hoard’s Dairyman website.

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The next broadcast of DairyLivestream will be on Wednesday, November 16 at 11 a.m. CDT. As of January 2022, we moved to a new system. If you have not yet, you will need to re-register to continue receiving email updates and links to the webcasts. You can sign up here now. Registering once will sign you up for all future events.

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October 20, 2022
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