The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens

Dairy industry told to do better marketing milk as a beverage

MIAMI — The nation’s dairy industry needs to improve the experience children have drinking milk at school and use special occasion marketing to reverse the decline in milk consumption in the United States, a key dairy industry adviser told the International Dairy Foods Association at its annual Dairy Forum here this week.

Milk consumption has been declining for 30 years in the United States, and has dropped 1.8 gallons per person over the past 10 years to 20.8 gallons per person in 2009, said Steven Goldbach, a partner in Monitor, a consulting firm hired by the Milk Processor Education Program to study milk consumption. The biggest shift has been to bottled and tap water.

Goldbach said milk is still doing well as a beverage of choice at breakfast, when mothers encourage their children to drink it, but said the industry needs to “defend” milk against other competitors, principally juices. He said milk is still doing well as a school meal beverage, but noted that the study showed that the children's experience with school milk is not always the best because cartons are sometimes hard to open and the milk is not always cold.

The Agriculture Department’s proposed new school nutrition guidelines will require serving milk at each meal, but also restrict the type of milk to be served to low fat and no fat. One IDFA official noted at another session at the forum that making milk attractive to children will be a challenge because the rule requires flavored milk to contain no fat. But Margot Wooton of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which pushed for stricter nutrition guidelines to discourage obesity, said she is opposed to flavored milk with higher fat content.

Although Americans do not usually drink milk after exercising, Golbach said it is ”not a stretch too far” to think they might see it as a beverage that can give them renewed energy as well as help them rehydrate. But Goldbach said that milk would have to be available in gyms for people to get the signal that it is good to drink it after exercise.

Goldbach saw a real opportunity for the industry to increase consumption after dinner when people are looking for an “indulgence.” He urged the industry to develop a “warm, creamy frothy beverage that is not called milk but contains it.” He also said that people should be urged to drink milk with dessert.

The yogurt industry has been particularly successful in developing new products and marketing them, he noted.

Vivien Godfrey, the CEO of the Milk Processor Education Program, known as MilkPEP, said that the industry would compete vigorously to win its ”share of stomach.” Despite the concern about obesity, “stomach size is not growing,” Godfrey said.