The government-appointed marketing body for the UK milk industry will use the cash to bolster interest across the three main dairy categories - cheese, milk and yoghurt - in a new campaign specifically targeting teenage girls between the ages of 10 and 20.
According to research conducted by the MDC in 2004, nearly 75 per cent of British girls aged between 10 and 20 have insufficient calcium intake - a situation which threatens to raise the risk of osteoporosis later in life.
The MDC claims that the low calcium intake arises mainly from the common misconceptions that dairy products are calorie-loaded and fail to provide any significant nutritional benefit. The marketing body also suggests that many people are unaware of their optimum daily intake levels.
Philippa Stagg told DairyReporter.com that, "throwing off the misconceptions about dairy has become increasingly difficult in recent years, particularly in light of government health-orientated initiatives, such as the traffic light labelling scheme," she said.
Under that system, scheduled to be rolled out across the UK later this year, food and beverage products are to be labelled and categorised according to how much salt, fat or sugar levels they contain.
But Stagg believes this system may not work in favour of dairy producers. "The traffic light initiative will focus on the negative nutritional qualities of food, providing a one-sided argument. Although cheese, for example, contains a high fat content, it also contains a significant amount of calcium," she said.
Currently branded health-orientated dairy products are proving popular across the UK multiples, bolstered by high advertising spend, while traditional dairy commodities - own-label milk for instance - are failing to maintain such a high-profile retail presence.
"Teenage girls do not think twice about eating dairy products in certain fashionable foodstuffs - cheese on pizza for instance - whereas they often fail to see the nutritional benefits of products such as milk and yoghurt. This campaign will focus on getting the message across that all dairy products are an essential part of any balanced diet," she added.
In addition to attracting the financial backing of the EC, the MDC has also received support from a number of prominent UK dairy operators, including co-operatives Robert Wiseman and Arla Foods UK, and also the UK industry body, Dairy Farmers of Britain (DFoB).
Although some dairy producers will not support the campaign financially, the MDC said that many have pledged to provide dairy products for sampling at a series of marketing events taking place across mainland UK.
"The whole industry pulling together is one of the main criteria for success. This will be the first industry-wide campaign since The White Stuff [a 2001 milk promotion campaign] but, in recognition of how the market has developed in recent years, it's heavily targeted and covers the three main dairy products rather than just milk," the MDC commented.