Dean Foods effectively slammed shut the door on milk from cloned cows recently. Dean is the 800 lb gorilla of the dairy industry, controlling something like 30% of the milk business in the U.S. If the Mayfields, McArthurs and Meadow Golds from coast to coast can tell consumers their milk comes from cows designed by nature, you can bet that competitors in each market will need to be able to do the same.
If you ask me this is a great way for an 800 lb gorilla to throw its weight around. With Dean refusing to accept milk from clones, there really will be no market for the stuff-not that there seems to be a lot of interest on the producer side of the equation anyhow. If FDA gives final approval to the sale of milk from clones, well, there may be no one who cares.
This leads to a couple of thoughts from these quarters. First of all, the industry leader should be commended for leading the industry in the right direction. By the way, Dean has some outstanding product innovations coming to market, and it just inked a deal for an acquisition in the cottage cheese market. Last month in this space we talked about the resurrection of frozen yogurt, and this month’s Cultured Product Trends feature reveals that cottage cheese is getting a makeover, thanks in part to Dean Foods.
When Dean announced that it would forgo milk from clones, a spokeswoman for the company was nearly apologetic, saying “we respect FDA, but we’ve got a customer and consumer base.”
No apologies necessary, really. This looks like a case of consumerism winning out over perplexing government logic, and perhaps rendering it irrelevant. And this may be just one example. Can anyone imagine a federal agency with the efficacy to make Wal-Mart want to go green, or a bureaucracy that could get McDonald’s to lose its trans-fats?
Not that I think a free market needs no governing. But when the companies selling the products are truly listening to those who are buying, the system is headed in the right direction.
Sadly there are still those who will still circle the wagons, insisting that consumers are gullible enough to be misinformed by special interest groups. In defending the status quo, these people will wave their scientific studies, just paid for with corporate donations and check-off dollars, forgetting that most Americans put at least as much stock in gut feelings and common sense as they do in scientific studies.
In the information age consumers are becoming educated without any help from ACME Corp. This is especially important, because this is food we’re talking about-a product that gets very personally involved with the consumer who buys it. People are more emotional, more demanding, and have more at stake in the long run when they go to buy bread and milk than when they buy a computer, a roll of paper towels or a ticket to a movie.
There is further evidence this month that milk sales continue to grow, particularly lowfat and skim and flavored milk (see Dairy Market Trends.) The dairy industry advocates at DMI and MilkPEP really deserve a round of applause for having reversed the trend in milk consumption.
A new warm and fuzzy TV ad from McDonald’s highlights the chain’s healthful choices, and it’s great to see images of kids eating apples and drinking from McDonald’s milk jugs.
At the risk of contradicting myself, I’ll concede that some of the success with milk can be attributed to the messages regarding weight control and milk consumption. Yes, there are scientific studies, paid for by the industry, that enable that story to be told. While I have in the past cautioned about the risk of such claims, I’m now happy to admit that, in this case at least, I may have been wrong.