Donna Berry

Early this month, Purchase, N.Y.-based PepsiCo Inc., debuted Pepsi® Holiday Spice, a festive addition to Pepsi's beverage portfolio that contains a hint of traditional holiday spice flavors. If Pepsi can give its namesake cola some holiday kick, the dairy industry can do the same.

"We're hoping to add a little extra fun to the holidays," says Dave Burwick, senior v.p. and chief marketing officer of Pepsi-Cola North America. "From its unique, spicy taste to its nostalgic packaging, everything about Pepsi Holiday Spice has been designed to mix fun new twists with the best of old traditions."

Dairy marketers have two options to make the most of the holiday season. They can promote their dairy case staples using a holiday-themed approach. Or, they can give their products a holiday twist, similar to Pepsi and others.

Promoting dairy staples

The fact is, real dairy products can help consumers truly savor the season, as they help create delicious holiday fare that prompts fond holiday memories. America's dairy farmers are supporting a variety of generic dairy promotion programs this holiday season, providing processors and marketers with the tools to encourage consumption of dairy foods. The overlying message shows holiday hosts that are looking for something sensational, yet simple to prepare, to look no further than the dairy case to assist with their edible creations.

For starters, "The secret to delicious and memorable holiday dishes is butter," says Jill Prescott, culinary expert for the home cook, and owner of the Jill Prescott Culinary School in Chicago. "Real butter is paramount to producing good-tasting and good-looking food. There is no substitute for butter in baking and cooking; it adds a rich, unique flavor that cannot be replicated."

If you are a butter marketer, you can communicate to your customers that butter's pure and natural ingredients-cream and salt-are responsible for the mouthwatering flavor associated with cookies, creamy sauces and rich candies.

"Butter is a wholesome, all-natural product with an unparalleled taste. During the cooking and baking process, butter's key compounds combine with sugar and protein to produce the savory flavor we have come to cherish in our favorite holiday foods," says Prescott.

Tips from Prescott that marketers can use include:

  • Use a flavored butter rub to baste turkey. This locks in moisture and enhances taste while producing a picture-perfect golden-brown bird.
  • When cooking holiday yams and other side dishes, use lightly salted butter. The salt in butter adds additional flavor to cooked holiday foods.
  • Both salted and unsalted butter can be used in baking, but to avoid overly salty sweets, use unsalted butter in baked goods. If one chooses to use salted butter, the amount of salt in the recipe ingredient list should be reduced. The general rule of thumb is to omit one-fourth teaspoon of salt per half-cup butter.
  • For delectable holiday cookies, allow butter to soften at room temperature for 30 minutes. To soften more quickly, cut butter into small squares. Melted butter changes the texture of baked goods and should not be used.
  • Holiday sauces, such as Hollandaise and Béarnaise, call for clarified butter. Teach consumers how to clarify butter. All they need to do is melt the butter and make it clear by separating and then discarding the milk solids and water leaving a pure liquid golden-yellow butterfat.

As mentioned, America's dairy farmers are supporting a seasonal butter promotion that features popular cookbooks for holiday and everyday cooking at reduced prices with proofs of purchase from real butter. For more information, visit www.wisdairy.com/butter or www.butterisbest.com for promotional details and holiday recipes.

The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (WMMB) is inviting families to reminisce about holidays past and begin new traditions with its holiday promotion: Create Real Holiday Memories.

The promotion includes a whimsical recipe and song brochure-Recipes for Carolers-which features a selection of favorite holiday carols (including the words to that elusive second verse) and recipes for tasty treats inspired by the songs. The promotion also offers a commemorative, punch n' fold caroler ornament, specially designed to hold a loved one's photo.

Recipes featuring "Real" dairy products such as butter, whipping cream, eggnog, sour cream and buttermilk. Home bakers can make a mouth-watering Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Cake that is practically more dairy than grain. The cake contains sour cream and butter. The filling combines whipping cream and cream cheese with other ingredients, while the icing uses butter and sour cream.

From deliciously rich desserts to melt-in-your mouth cookies and golden, flaky pie crusts, many of the most anticipated holiday events focus on delicious, homemade dishes and baked goods made with dairy products.

Even beverages can benefit from some dairy. Hot cocoa is richer (and packed full of milk's inherent nutrients) when it's made with milk instead of water. And eggnog can serve as the base for a variety of holiday beverages, with or without that little extra cheer.

The recipe brochure and one punch n' fold caroler ornament are available free by sending three proofs-of-purchase from any of the following five Real dairy products: Butter, whipping cream, sour cream, buttermilk or eggnog, along with an offer form available online at WMMB's Web site, www.wisdairy.com/sing. Or, consumers can simply send a name, address and three proofs-of-purchase to WMMB, "Create Real Holiday Memories," P.O. Box 44574, Madison, WI 53744-4574.

Here are some tips from WMMB on ways to promote your dairy products this holiday:

  • Whipped cream complements holiday fun. Suggest to consumers to dress up holiday sweets with a generous dollop of real whipped cream. It can transform an old standby recipe into an enticing new creation. A simple turn of a piping tube can yield fanciful desserts full of appeal and deserving of praise. For a deliciously sweet sauce, drizzle sweetened whipping cream on cakes, brownies and pies.
  • Cream cheese improves holiday spreads. A delectable filling or spread for holiday bars and cakes, cream cheese is often overlooked as a holiday baking taste sensation. Cream cheese complements other real dairy ingredients, such as butter, to create light, fluffy icings or dense layers of sweetness. Suggest to consumers that they simply soften and cream with real butter to create a rich, velvety spread. Flavored cream cheese also makes an excellent appetizer-blend cream cheese with savory spices for a delicious holiday dip.
  • Buttermilk gives the gift of surprise. Although low-fat, real buttermilk has a creamy consistency and rich, tangy flavor that adds an unexpected lift to any recipe. When buttermilk is used in a recipe for cake and bread batters, consumers can be assured that their holiday goodies will be moist and flavorful. They can also toss the perfect holiday salad with a creamy buttermilk dressing or stir up satisfying soups using buttermilk for rich flavor and smooth texture. Tell consumers how buttermilk adds extra zing to mashed potatoes and potato side dishes.
  • Eggnog adds excitement to holiday desserts. A popular holiday beverage, eggnog is actually quite versatile and delicious in many holiday recipes. Provide consumers with serving suggestions such as adding cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla or different liquors for flavor. They can use leftover eggnog to spice up holiday desserts. Simply use it to replace a portion of the milk or cream in a recipe.
  • Sour cream adds a special touch. Smooth, rich sour cream adds a special texture and delicate flavor to holiday baked goods, sauces, dips and spreads. Silky smooth cheesecake is often the result of sour cream, and sour cream keeps cakes and bars tasting moist and delicious and gives frosting a creamy texture. Sour cream is also the key to easy appetizers. Let consumers know that all they need to do is simply blend sour cream with dry dip mixes and serve with fresh vegetables or crackers.

Certainly there are a lot of ideas and tools available to promote dairy foods during this holiday season.

Marketing festive dairy foods

Though it is likely too late at this point in time for the 2004 holiday season, another option to consider for 2005 is to give your products a holiday twist. For example, Welch Food Inc., Concord, Ma., recently released the Welch's® Sparkling Grape Juice Cocktail nutcracker collection. Full body-wrapped bottles feature one of two eye-catching nutcracker designs-a traditional, red-costumed soldier for the red grape flavor and a green-uniformed cavalier representing the white grape flavor.

Smith Dairy Products Co., Orrville, Ohio, does a wonderful job making its Moovers® eggnog a festive celebration for the whole family. For the past few holiday seasons, Smith Dairy has adorned its eggnog bottles-both the 30-oz and 11-oz sizes-with full-body shrink sleeves that turn the bottles into holiday character collectibles.

Santa and Mrs. Claus adorn the premium 30-oz eggnog package, while two cheerful toy soldiers are featured on the low-fat custard style nog. The low fat eggnog has less than half the fat grams per serving as compared to the traditional style, yet still has a rich, creamy taste. All flavors are ultra-pasteurized for an extended shelflife and freshness. Premium eggnog is also available in an 11-oz Elf Nog size.

New this year is Moovers English Toffee eggnog, which combines premium eggnog with a delicious buttery toffee flavoring.

"We have had great success with our seasonal eggnog products in the past five years," says Bill McCabe, v.p. of marketing. "We wanted to develop a unique flavor that would complement our existing line and generate incremental sales."

Along with the bright, festive graphics, the labels on the plastic, re-sealable bottles feature a numbered Limited Edition Collector's Seal and delicious holiday eggnog recipes. For example, the package design for the new English Toffee Eggnog features a colorful illustration of a friendly snowman, complete with carrot nose, decked out in holiday attire. The label provides a recipe for eggnog muffins, as well as other eggnog uses for holiday festivities.

"Seasonal packaging and products like eggnog spark retail sales," says McCabe. "The seasonal Santa and Mrs. Claus package designs have proven to encourage impulse purchases."

In early November, Wells' Dairy Inc., Le Mars, Iowa, issued several press releases to the consumer trade promoting its dairy products in holiday fare. For example, one such release says: Whether enjoyed by the glass or in a delectable holiday recipe, frothy Blue Bunny® Egg Nog has long been a staple of holiday celebrations. It brings back fond memories of real Christmas trees, stockings hung on the mantel and a fire glowing underneath. Editors were given recipe suggestions to print that include eggnog cinnamon swirl bread and butter rum glazed eggnog cake. Another release issued a week later suggests using Blue Bunny Premium Butter Pecan Ice Cream to make a gingerbread man torte.

Indeed, ice cream has become a festive holiday treat for many. Utica, Ohio-based Velvet Ice Cream Co., estimates that it will use 3,500lbs of peppermint candy this year to produce its family favorite: Peppermint Stick ice cream. Like kids who can't wait for the holidays, some Velvet Ice Cream customers can't wait for this seasonal flavor to arrive in their grocers' freezers.

"We have customers who wait all year long for Peppermint Stick and call a couple of months ahead asking when it's going to hit the stores, because they love it so much," says Luconda Dager, v.p. of marketing and sales. "They even drive to our Utica headquarters to get it after their grocery stores have sold out for the season."

Hope these ideas help you make your customers crave your company's products this holiday season.

Courtesy of WMMB, here's some holiday trivia.

Q: This holiday carol is the result of a poem set to music on Christmas Eve in 1818.

A: Silent Night

Source :www.cyberhymnal.org

Q: This holiday favorite was written for Bing Crosby to sing in the 1942 film, Holiday Inn.

A: White Christmas

Source: www.kcmetro.cc.mo.us

Q: Which classic carol was composed by an editor and critic for TheNew York Tribune?

A: It Came Upon A Midnight Clear

Q: This famous carol was originally written for a Thanksgiving program, but it was so well received, it was played again at Christmas.

A: Jingle Bells

Q: This traditional American carol is generally considered to be written anonymously.

A: Jolly Old St. Nicholas

Source: Montrose Music, www3.pair.com/montrsmu

Q: The First Noel, originally spelled Nowell, may have been derived from a contraction for this greeting in medieval England?

A: Now all is well

Q: This poem, written by a classics professor in 1822, was the first to place Santa on the roof, entering and exiting the house via the chimney. It was also inspiration for the carol, Up On The Housetop.

A: The Night Before Christmas

Q: The practice of caroling was initially referred to by this term, meaning "be well."

A: Wassailing

Q: The name for this holiday carol marks the longest holiday in the Christian Calendar, between Christmas day and the Epiphany (January 6).

A: The Twelve Days of Christmas

Source: "Christmas with Martha Stewart Living, Classic Crafts and Recipes inspired by the Songs of Christmas."