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Milk’s Missed Opportunity

Cindy Sorensen
Cindy Sorensen

by Cindy Sorensen/founder and CEO, The Grocery Group

With approximately 96 percent of all households purchasing milk, it holds an enviable spot in consumers’ shopping baskets and refrigerators. There is only one other category that can claim a higher household penetration, and that is toilet paper.

But milk’s stronghold with consumers is fading. As competition in the beverage category has grown, milk’s share of consumers’ stomachs has decreased. As I have mentioned in this column before, processors have some limitations regarding advertising claims they can make on their packaging, which limits their ability to compete on a level playing field with other beverages.

However, one opportunity remains largely untapped by milk processors and retailers, and that is online communications, including their websites, and e-commerce and social media content. In a review of websites for several milk processors and a variety of retailers, opportunities abound to communicate with consumers about milk—specifically its health benefits. 

A few years ago, consumers became increasingly concerned about the production of their food, wanting to know who produced it and how the animals were cared for. As a result, milk processors and retailers began to develop communications and in-store merchandising that provided insight to consumers about where their food came from.

Today, the websites for many milk processors are sharing the story of the “people behind the product.” Consumers can get a glimpse into the lives of people who produce their milk. They can learn about animal care on the farm, and they can see sustainability practices in action that protect our natural resources in the production of milk.

Retailers are doing less of this messaging than milk processors; retailers are making more of a farmer connection in the produce and meat categories than they are in the dairy department. The majority of retailer websites do not list “dairy” as a department to be viewed for additional information.

The biggest missed opportunity on milk processors’ websites is the communication of the nutrition and healthy-living benefits of milk. Milk’s competitors, like plant-based beverages, are not missing this opportunity. Their websites have a plethora of nutrition and health-related benefits related to consuming their products.

As much as consumers want to know about the production of their food, they also want to know what’s in it for them. The Dean Foods website is doing a great job of informing consumers about what milk has to offer. The focus isn’t just on what is in milk—such as the nine essential nutrients and vitamins not found together naturally in any other food product—but it tells the company’s consumers what the results and benefits will be to them from consuming milk, such as “stronger bodies” and “better performance.”

With more than 81 percent of consumers visiting a company’s website prior to a shopping trip, it is a missed opportunity to not communicate the benefits of milk on your website, whether you are a milk processor or a retailer.

Milk’s competitive beverages are promoting their health benefits to your consumer base. In the absence of that information about milk, it is only natural for a consumer to assume milk doesn’t offer the same benefits. And with the meteoric rise of online shopping, the opportunity also exists to share this information on your e-commerce platform so consumers have this information at the point of purchase in this space as well.

If you are in need of nutritional and health benefits content about milk for your website, reach out to your local dairy association representative, MilkPEP (Milk Processor Education Program) or contact me and I will connect you to the resources you need.

The Grocery Group focuses on developing leadership in the grocery industry. Its expertise is in developing innovation in merchandising, category management, distribution and promotion strategy, and digital and website development. The Group also is working with the industry and colleges and universities to attract, recruit and retain a talented workforce in a competitive employment market. Working with manufacturers and food startups to develop products to fulfill changing consumer demands also is of special interest to The Grocery Group. Reach Cindy at cindy@thegrocerygroup.com.


Keep reading:

Inaugural Dairy Experience Forum Emphasized Consumer Values

Cindy Sorensen: Let’s Give Milk A Level Playing Field

Plant-Based Food Sales Up 20 Percent, Report Finds

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