US milk processors unite to make milk cool

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Milk, Soft drink, Dairy product

Jazzy images and more imagination on products is the key to making
more children choose milk over fizzy drinks, says new research
funded by the US dairy industry, writes Chris Mercer.

Milk's image as a plain, everyday commodity has seen it lose out to the marketing might of soft drinks giants, with children in the US now drinking three times more sodas than milk.

However, simple marketing and product improvements, such as better label designs and new flavours, could increase kids' milk consumption by 34 per cent, according to a recent pilot study conducted by milk processors across 300 schools in St Louis.

The study, partly sponsored by the Milk Processor Education Programme based in Washington DC, found that a variety of flavours, such as vanilla and strawberry, and colourful, 'kid-friendly' packaging would make children choose milk more often.

Some schools were provided with advertising posters and new products, while others carried on as normal to provide a comparison. Consumption rose by 12 per cent in schools offering new flavours and packaging, while those in the control group experienced no change.

Tom Nagle, vice president of marketing at the International Dairy Foods Association, believes some producers are now catching on.

"Taking a page from the soda manufacturers' marketing manual, many milk processors are taking steps to make milk more 'cool' for kids.

"Students in the St Louis test chose milk because of the new graphics and packaging, but they kept drinking it because of the great taste and new flavours,"​ he said.

One problem for producers looking to target school children is that on-site vending machines are heavily weighted in favour of soft drinks giants like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo.

The St Louis District Dairy Council cited a recent study of more than 200 school vending machines, which found that seven out of ten beverages were either sugary sodas or fruit drinks.

Dairy processors have strong health arguments on their side and this may help if they can first show that children want more milk drinks.

But, potential problems, and ones that have already been identified in the UK, are that vending machines are often owned by soft drinks firms, and schools are generally tied in to long-term supply contracts that would prove extremely costly to break.

The key will be a greater focus on innovation for children; something that is moving up the R&D ladder according to a recent report on the global dairy products market by Euromonitor.

The report said more producers were developing 'consumer-specific' products and that child-focused products were becoming especially popular.

General trends towards brand-building and value-added products should also enable dairy firms to market their products more effectively; enabling them to compete more effectively against other drinks by lifting milk out of its 'commodity' pigeonhole.

Related topics: Markets, Fresh Milk

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