As we prepare for a new year, Midwest Dairy has been reflecting on 2021, evaluating our work and using the metrics gathered to increase dairy demand and consumer confidence as we look ahead to 2022.
While the coronavirus pandemic has brought challenges over the past two years, our staff and strategic plan have adapted as the dairy community navigates the journey. We’ve prioritized reminding consumers of the unique health benefits of dairy, and with heightened consumer concern about dairy’s sustainability, we focused on sharing dairy’s story of being a solution for the environment. Throughout the year, we worked to better connect Generation Z (those born between 1997 and 2012) and their parents with dairy’s sustainability story, along with how dairy can help provide important immunity and overall health benefits.
We’ve tapped critical partners to share dairy’s messages in ways that reach consumers both when and where they are shopping for or consuming dairy, and in ways that are meaningful to their lives. As of Dec. 15, we have teamed up with 21 school districts on 34 dairy optimization projects in 221 school buildings, reaching over 7,400 students and 2,800 teachers. We have also developed and executed 39 activations with 13 retail and foodservice partners to share dairy’s sustainability story and highlight dairy foods. We will continue to learn the impact of these efforts in the coming months after our school, retail and foodservice partners provide sales data from the holiday demand season.
What does 2022 hold? At Midwest Dairy, we’re optimistic about the year ahead and plan to build on dairy’s momentum, continuing to focus on building trust and more demand among consumers.
Members of Gen Z and their parents will again be one of our primary audiences. This group makes up about 20% of the population and possesses over $100 billion in spending power. With 90% of Gen Z identifying as video gamers, we are expanding work with influencers in the gaming world and on social media platforms like TikTok. Influencers will authentically share sustainability messages and help Gen Z engage in dairy messaging that ultimately showcases the wellness value of dairy products, including how dairy is made with care for the planet. In addition, the “Reset Yourself with Dairy” campaign that began late this year will continue to highlight the nutritional, comfort and calming values dairy brings to their lives.   
Where else is Gen Z being influenced related to food? At school. Schools are the largest “restaurants” in their communities, and we’ll continue to invest in creative programs that promote a love for dairy and its nutritional value. This year, we’ll continue partnering with schools, implementing innovative initiatives such as smoothie and breakfast programs that increase students’ access to dairy.
While getting products to consumers is important, building consumers’ confidence in dairy is equally significant. We want consumers to understand why dairy farmers are just as passionate about the environment as they are. Our main campaign to share this message, “What You Do, Dairy Does Too,” has a toolkit available under the resources tab on midwestdairy.com. We welcome your help to share these messages and continue to build consumer trust.
Retail and foodservice partnerships will also remain a critical focus. We will continue working with grocery stores, convenience stores and restaurants to connect dairy’s sustainability story and products with target consumers as they continue to grow their love and purchases of dairy products. Midwest Dairy staff has been working tirelessly to build relationships with new and existing partners, relationships we are excited to report on in 2022 as they are implemented and begin to show positive results.
And tied closely to all of these initiatives, dairy food research and innovation will remain a top priority, ensuring we are creating products and offerings that align with what consumers are looking for. Our Cooperative and Processor Support program, which supports product innovation, is sparking interest from processors, and we will be doing more of this in 2022 to continue driving more relevancy in the supply chain for dairy foods research and innovation.    
Midwest Dairy is stepping into 2022 with numerous opportunities to support dairy innovation, reach new consumers, strengthen relationships with existing consumers and maximize your checkoff investment.