Delivering dairy to today’s consumers

The final presentation Tuesday afternoon was a robust panel discussion about trends influencing the dairy industry.

DFA Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff Monica Massey moderated the discussion with panelists Shelley Blanko, Ph.D., senior vice president for The Hartman Group; Rachel Kyllo, senior vice president of growth and innovation for Kemps; Barb O’Brien, president of Dairy Management Inc. and the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy; Mihira Patel Rami, director of marketing for DFA’s Consumer Retail Division; and Paul Winch, senior director of product development for DairiConcepts.

The discussion began with a presentation from Shelley, who detailed today’s food landscape, in which consumers are seeking distinct products that ladder up to four key themes: freshness, health and wellness, culinary and transparency.

“Today’s consumer really sees themselves as unique and wants to tweak the way they eat and drink to fit their needs. As consumers are thinking more holistically about health and wellness, they’re also thinking more about overall quality,” said Shelley. “Telling our story is a way to help consumers feel connected.”

The panelists also discussed steps DFA is taking to share our farm-to-table narrative with today’s consumers.

“What we’ve been able to do (with Borden® Cheese) is share a story that goes back to the dairy family,” said Mihira. “Consumers, not industry or governments, are setting the standard for food quality in contemporary food culture. They’re taking a more intuitive and holistic approach to what they’re eating. Telling our story is increasingly important.”

Adding probiotics to fresh milk, focusing on clean labels, investing in fermentation and looking at snacking as an opportunity for growth are other ways DFA is working to meet the demand of evolving consumer trends. 

“We need to push the envelope in terms of what is driving the industry, and Sweet Me™ [Creamery] ice cream is an example,” explained Rachel. “At Kemps, we’re trying to find that sweet spot for consumers who are looking for new and different tastes and flavors, and delivering them in a unique way.”

Whether it’s the growing strength in butter sales, creating new twists on classic products or producing higher-fat dairy foods to meet consumer demand, one factor the panelists all agreed on is that dairy is on trend.