The future dairy consumer

Moderated by Executive Vice President and Chief of Staff Monica Massey, this panel outlined consumer trends and highlighted ways DFA’s commercial teams are developing and adapting to meet the needs of today’s consumer. Joining Monica was Donna Berry, owner of Dairy & Food Communications; Rachel Kyllo, senior vice president of growth and innovation for Kemps®; Chris Noble, Northeast Area member from Linwood, N.Y. and a founding member of the Craigs Creamery™ brand; and Eve Pollet, senior vice president of strategic intelligence for Dairy Management Inc.

Monica opened the panel with a look at how consumers incorporated dairy in their diets in the past and insights into the current trends. The stark difference between the two, Monica pointed out, is that we are now eating on the run, and dairy is not as present in our current routines. “We are busy and moving and don’t take time to think about our choices and put meals together,” Monica said.

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She went on to explain that how, when, where and why we eat has changed, and it is not necessarily a win for dairy. Understanding what consumers want and how their needs are being met is now more important than ever. Convenient, healthy and environmentally sensitive foods are in demand, and we must adapt. “Not only do we want products that don’t do harm, we want products that do good,” Monica explained about today’s consumer.

Eve has background in unpacking the implications of trends in culture, and Monica asked her to provide a deeper dive into ways we can adapt to current trends and forecast future trends. “We have to have an innate, in-depth understanding of technology,” Eve said. Consumers are not necessarily taking guidance about their diets from the medical community anymore, but relying more on friends, family and even spiritual healers and artificial intelligence. “People want to use technology to hack their way to health wealth,” she said.

Monica then turned it over to Rachel, who gave the audience some context behind the current Kemps® branding campaign, Good Comes Around. “Consumers want to know more about what’s behind our products … and we knew the farm-to-table story was really powerful,” Rachel said. This understanding is what drove the success behind the campaign, illustrating how important it is to connect the consumer with the farm.

Rachel then discussed the process behind launching new products to market and how they leverage consumer insights. The focus, she explained, is to find a variety of products to deliver milk in new and different, more relevant ways. To do this, the team performs qualitative research to understand what people want. After creating a variety of concepts, the team then tests the concepts and uses the results to get a sense of how to prioritize the concepts for market. Taking direction from consumer sentiment is an integral part of the process.

Chris also discussed the importance of interacting directly with consumers and shared plans for creating some experiential marketing elements for the Craigs Creamery™ brand. “I think the farmers themselves are very interested in telling our story,” he said.

Enabling consumers to see the farm, engage with the families behind the brand and get to know DFA and our story will help to connect consumers to the real people behind these tasty products. Chris also expressed hope that other DFA brands can replicate this engagement with consumers to create impactful, lasting experiences. “The crescendo of consumer interest and our ability to tell our story is now,” Chris said. “We have the back story to support the healthy, clean-label story.”

I think the farmers themselves are very interested in telling our story,
— Chris Noble, Northeast Area member and partner, Craigs Creamery™

Donna then shared additional insights into what matters to consumers. “When there is this story or qualifications like the farm-to-table story,” she said, “it gives consumers permission to eat what they really enjoy.” She reinforced Monica’s point that people want to buy products that do good. “I think there is such an opportunity in dairy to capitalize on this,” she said.

Donna also mentioned that she thinks one of the areas of opportunity for dairy is limited time offerings. It creates a sense of urgency to buy, and dairy fits well because of its short shelf-life.

Each panelist closed by explaining how dairy can be successful with the future consumer, with a recurring theme of connecting consumers with our farmer-owners by telling their stories.