Gregory D. Miller
Product and nutrition research within the dairy industry has a history of offering producers and processors new opportunities for growth.

Research supporting the role of dairy foods in a healthy diet has provided important new marketing positions. New technologies to extend shelf life have led to new distribution opportunities. The cheese, butter, yogurt, ice cream and milk products in the stores today (as well as many of the dairy ingredients that are realizing tremendous gains among food manufacturers) are all the end result of the foresight contributed by individuals, companies and producers years or even decades ago. It all began with the recognition of the need for research.

While there are numerous success stories, real challenges remain. In fact, the success of the dairy industry five, ten or twenty years down the road directly hinges on decisions made today with regards to research.

Around the world, dairy industries are significantly increasing their research budgets, combining the efforts of government, producers, and processors. The commonality among these programs is the primary target: the U.S. consumer. Back home, alternative protein groups have been proactive in conducting research that has boosted sales and consumption, often at the expense of dairy.

Innovation in the food industry is no longer just a buzz word or fad. Rather, it has become a way to conduct business and create a roadmap for the future. The life cycle for food products is shorter than ever. Recognizing changing consumer trends and demographics regarding health and nutrition, aging, ethnic diversity, or simply a continued need for convenience, the dairy industry must next be proactive in addressing these needs. Nutrition and product research is the first step in this process.

While past and current research programs have been successful, much more needs to be done. Research is not completed in a short time frame. Strategic insight must be offered to address the future needs of the consumer today in order to offer dairy solutions tomorrow.

Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) has conducted basic, applied, and nutrition research programs on behalf of the dairy industry. Will this investment by producers be enough to sustain growth and help producers and manufacturers alike realize long-term success in a competitive marketplace? The largest hurdle facing the industry today is how to get the entire industry growing the category through research, technology, and overall innovation.

Several major dairy companies have expressed concern over the lack of resources in this area. Some have called for the industry to take a hard look at new solutions or support programs to build the future of dairy. DMI has listened to these recommendations and has acted upon them, but we cannot act alone.

It's imperative that the all those involved participate in defining the future of the U.S. dairy industry.

Becoming a world leader in driving innovation and providing for current and future needs of consumers and marketing channels can only come about through an integrated effort from processors, suppliers, and anyone else with a vested interest. In short, we must unite to provide the resources needed to create the products and positioning that will result in a growing, successful dairy industry.