March 27 2023 08:00 AM

Sponsored content created by Scott Wallin Vice President of Industry Media Relations and Issues Management, Dairy Management Inc.

Milk has been a generations-long staple in the beverage category thanks to its tried-and-true health and wellness benefits and amazing taste.

But the dairy checkoff believes milk has even more to give and is tapping into new functional benefits that are producing innovative products and strong marketing claims. The timing couldn’t be better. Today’s consumer has new expectations of the beverages and foods they choose, and milk has plenty left in the glass to meet their needs.

The checkoff is touting milk’s benefits related to immunity, calm, energy, and digestive health, which are providing consumers a refreshed way of seeing all that milk can be.

“The beverage universe had changed a lot over the last five to 10 years and has become significantly more crowded,” said Anne Marie Splitstone, who serves as senior vice president of global innovation partnerships for Dairy Management Inc. “With the proliferation of new options, consumers are demanding more from their beverages.”

She says options including Kombucha, iced coffees, energy drinks, and fruit juices are on the rise as consumers seek benefits such as hydration and energy. To meet these ever-changing demands, categories must innovate every year or risk losing relevancy, Splitstone said.

To make up for a lack of milk innovation, the checkoff started its fluid milk revitalization effort in 2015, working with dairy companies, co-ops, and the Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP). Much of this full-court press centers on value-added innovation and marketing communication. Splitstone said the industry has invested close to $2 billion in plant infrastructure and the results are encouraging.

Products such as fairlife, Darigold FIT, Shamrock Rockin’ Protein Energy, and Kroger’s Simple Truth have helped the value-added segment grow more than $1 billion in sales higher than non-dairy alternatives the last five years.

“We’re working to modernize milk and we’re collaborating with start-ups through big, branded players across the industry,” Splitstone said. “We’re finding new avenues to bring out the strong capabilities of milk for consumers in a way that is catching their attention again.”

One new example is Good Culture Probiotic produced by Dairy Farmers of America with checkoff support. This value-added product meets consumer demand for digestive health benefits.

The checkoff’s research team also has been instrumental in fluid milk innovation by delivering science-backed claims, including how milk is a better hydration option than water. MilkPEP, the dairy processor checkoff, is leveraging claims such as this and has invested $60 million in advertising efforts. Brands and retailers also have collectively invested more than $250 million in fluid milk marketing efforts since 2015.

“Our claims are designed to be stop-you-in-your-tracks ideas that make people think about milk in ways they weren’t before,” Splitstone said. “We are far from done in working to have consumers see fluid milk in ways they never had before.”