Donna Berry

Dairy marketing efforts during the past 30 years have done a great job of promoting dairy's role in a nutritious diet. Ads and promotions continue to center on selling consumers on the importance of dairy to good health. But there is another side to dairy that may offer different opportunities: the pure deliciousness of all dairy foods. With shifting attitudes about nutrition and indulgence, there are opportunities to broaden the ways that we market dairy products.

For cheese and ice cream category marketers this is nothing new. Many tend to focus on the delicious, creaminess of their product lines rather than nutritional composition. Likely this is a result of the fat-free frenzy of the late 90s when these marketers learned consumers typically eat cheese and ice cream for sensory-satisfying reasons rather than for their vitamin and mineral profile. The reduction in fat and calories that some brands of cheese and ice cream offer is simply a bonus.

Indeed, the real driver of cheese and ice cream is taste. Even Dreyer's® Slow Churned™ Light Ice Cream labels emphasize the "rich and creamy" aspects of the product. This is the result of the "slow churned" process, which, by the way allows for a reduction in fat and calories.

And most parents know that it's hard to beat the rich creaminess of Kraft® Mac and Cheese . . . also known as "blue box." Indeed cheese is nutritious, but it's the deliciousness of the proprietary Kraft cheese mix that makes this pasta dinner a favorite with kids (and their parents).

I wonder what it would take to convince a marketer that he or she could promote a glass of whole milk as an indulgent and delicious afternoon beverage that also provides satiety and nutrition? It's a much better option than a soda-diet or regular-or a candy bar, or some cookies or chips. Have you had a glass of whole milk lately? Heck, as a skim milk drinker, I thought I was indulging on a milkshake. What a treat!

Recently I had the opportunity to meet Stuart Patton, professor emeritus of food science at Pennsylvania State University, and author of the book Milk: Its Remarkable Contribution to Health and Well-Being. Patton loves milk and everything about it. He finds the negative publicity on the saturated fat content of milk unwarranted.

"During a time of nutritional extremism, it clearly is refreshing to encounter a presentation of the facts that allows one to conclude that milk and dairy products are, or should be, a healthful part of a well-balanced diet," says Thomas Keenan, professor of biochemistry, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. "This book presents clear and documented facts that will allow the reader to evaluate the radical claims made against the dairy industry by the animal rights activist movement."

Indeed, milk and the products made from milk, are all wonderful foods. Each and every one of them possesses nutritional benefits, along with being delicious and satisfying. Let's see what some marketers are doing to promote the indulgence of their products.

As mentioned, it's easy to do with ice cream. Recently, Hardee's restaurants introduced new Hand-Scooped Ice Cream Shakes & Malts™, made with real ice cream, real milk and blended to order.

"The quality and taste of our new ice cream milkshakes and malts are head and shoulders above anything being served by any major fast-food chain today," says Brad Haley, executive v.p. of marketing for Hardee's. "In fact, most fast-food chains stopped making real milkshakes many years ago in favor of faster and cheaper shakes that are machine-made using a liquid shake mix-and most of those can't even legally be referred to as ice cream.

Well's Dairy Inc., Le Mars, Iowa, is another company not afraid to promote dairy's indulgence factor. Designed for those who crave a creamy, decadent ice cream dessert without the hassle of creating it, new Blue Bunny® Ultimate Rewards™ dessert cups come to the rescue. There are two varieties. Ultimate Rewards Grasshopper is layered mint ice cream, mint-flavored mousse, fudge sauce and mint candies. Caramel Pecan is layers of caramel ice cream, caramel-flavored mousse, caramel sauce and glazed pecans.

For foodservice, Well's continues to grow its friazos® line. These prepared, individually portioned, layered indulgent desserts put the spotlight on ice cream on the dessert menu.

The Dannon Co., White Plains, N.Y., recognizes that such decadence is not limited to the freezer. Dannon combines the wholesomeness of yogurt with the decadence of chocolate in its new la Crème® Rich & Creamy with Chocolate Pieces. Sold in pint containers in the refrigerated yogurt case, the product is described as luscious pieces of premium chocolate mixed together with the smooth and creamy texture of la Crème to satisfy sweet cravings while providing all the goodness of yogurt. "And with 48% less saturated fat than regular ice creams, it's one more reason to make la Crème your everyday indulgence," says the company. The entire Dannon la Crème line, which also includes regular and mousse, is described by the company as the yogurt that is dessert.

Not positioned as a dairy product, yet nonfat milk is the first listing on the ingredient statement, new PowerBar® Pria® Complete Nutrition Shake is an indulgent-tasting, 170-calorie drink created with the nutrition needs of women in mind. The shelf-stable drink provides a balanced blend of carbohydrates, protein and 21 vitamins and minerals, including 28% Daily Value of fiber and 50% of the Daily Value of calcium.

"Our consumer research within the calorie-control shake category identified the need for a great-tasting shake with just the right nutrition for women," says Pria Brand Manager Andy Hill.

The shakes come in two flavors-Creamy Milk Chocolate and French Vanilla. Approximately 60% of women surveyed preferred the Pria shake over a comparable flavor from a leading reduced-sugar competitive brand, which, surprise, surprise, does not include milk in the formulation! Milk makes Pria delicious.

What can we look forward to from one of the country's leading dairy marketers?

Scheduled for this June, Binghamton, N.Y.-based Crowley Foods, a part of H.P. Hood LLC, Chelsea, Mass., is unveiling a new look to promote all of its dairy products. The bright, contemporary appearance reinforces Crowley's "Life.Style." promise, visibly portraying the company's reputation for quality and capitalizing the dairy industry's weight loss message.

"It's an exciting time here at Crowley," said Joe Cervantes, COO of Crowley Foods. "With our merger with Hood, our 100th anniversary and our commitment to the dairy weight loss program, everything just fell into place. It was a perfect time to revisit our packaging, turn up the volume and shake up the dairy case."

The new packaging boasts bright contemporary colors, clean graphic design, a larger brand logo and lively branding copy. All the products that carry the Crowley brand name, including the company's award-winning milk, cottage cheese and sour cream lines are included in the sweeping makeover to create a consistent brand look across product lines. The new look draws attention to the indulgence factor.

In addition, Crowley's low-fat and nonfat products will be highlighted with Crowley's proprietary "Enjoy Dairy, Lose Weight" symbol and message. Crowley was one of the first dairy firms in the Northeast to license the dairy and weight loss claim.

"We're extremely pleased to be early adopters of this program," Cervantes said. "By getting involved and informing consumers, we're answering a clear nutritional need while staying at the forefront of consumer awareness."

Crowley's makeover will be supported by newly designed fleet graphics and consumer Web site, local events, FSIs and extensive consumer television and billboard advertising, which will be first launched in core markets followed by expansion markets. In concert with the new package design, the advertising builds the "Life.Style." brand message, educating consumers that Crowley dairy products are more than just wholesome staples. They are trusted ingredients that fit every life and style.

They are indulgent and nutritious, something for everyone to enjoy.