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

Cindy Sorensen
Cindy Sorensen

by Cindy Sorensen/founder and CEO, The Grocery Group

For those of us close to the dairy industry, we know there is no other beverage which naturally provides the nutrition milk provides in one 8-oz. serving. Few consumers know that one serving of lowfat milk provides the following nutrients (source: National Dairy Council):

• Protein (16 percent DV*)—equal to four eggs
• Calcium (30 percent DV)—36.5 cups of raw kale
• Vitamin D (30 percent DV)—6.6-oz. of sardines
• Vitamin A (10 percent)—2 cups of cooked green beans
• Vitamin B1 (20 percent DV)—1 pound of pork chops
• Riboflavin (25 percent DV)—1 cup of almonds
• Phosphorus (25 percent DV)—2.5 cups of kidney beans
• Potassium (10 percent DV): three bananas

*Daily Value based on a 2000-calorie daily diet

I have listed the equivalent of other foods one would have to consume to equal the nutrients found in one serving of milk. It’s quite remarkable that one serving can deliver this much nutritional value. One might even think of milk as a “superfood.” It’s easy to see why an industry campaign once promoted milk as “Nature’s Most Perfect Food.”

Regardless of the nutrient-rich status of milk, the industry is restricted by the FDA’s standards of identity for labeling its fat content, or lack thereof, and protein content. These same standards do not apply to other beverages. They are able to advertise their fat-free percentage status, like “98% fat-free,” for example. Milk processors are not allowed to advertise 1% low fat milk as “99% fat free,” 2% reduced fat milk as 98% fat free or whole milk as 96.5% fat free.

That’s right, whole milk is 96.5 percent fat-free—and it tastes amazing. Taste always wins out with consumers.

The current labeling restrictions are confusing to consumers looking to be more informed about their purchase decisions than ever before. In an era of consumers’ heightened interest about the food they eat, this clarity in product description would be extremely helpful to keeping consumers informed.

There are beverages advertised as an “excellent” source of protein at 4g per 8-oz. serving, which is half that of the protein content in milk at 8g per 8-oz. serving. Milk is restricted to a standard that restricts messaging to say it is a “good” source of protein.

I once picked up a fruit juice labeled as “high in protein” and it had 2g of protein per 8-oz. serving. This is confusing to consumers and puts milk at a disadvantage. 

And then there is the debate over the labeling and lack of enforcement of the labeling of nut and plant juices as “milk.” The labeling restrictions of what beverages can be called “milk” are clear, but they are not enforced. 

It is these rules by which milk must play that do not allow the category to compete on a level playing field with other beverages. One team should not have an unfair advantage over another by playing with a different set of rules.

Cindy Sorensen is the founder and CEO of The Grocery Group, which focuses on developing leadership in the grocery industry. The Grocery Group’s expertise is in developing innovation in merchandising, category management, distribution and promotion strategy, and digital and website development. The Group is also 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 [email protected]

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