Kevin Bellamy, left, GDP exec. dir., and Andrew Ferrier, chairman of the GDP Board and CEO of Fonterra.

Global Dairy Platform (, an international non-profit dairy association based in Rosemont, Ill., is celebrating its growth and first-year anniversary.

GDP was created to promote and protect dairy’s position worldwide, in large part by maximizing the impact of change in the industry. These include new opportunities in emerging markets and changes in consumer demand, nutritional policy and the regulatory environment. In an increasingly globalized marketplace, where trade barriers are diminishing, many of these issues reach across national boundaries.

In response, GDP has decided to focus its efforts on four key areas in 2008 and beyond, which were to be discussed at the group’s first annual meeting this month in Dublin, Ireland. These areas were recommended by GDP’s Communication and Scientific Advisory Board, which consists of some of the world’s renowned scientists in health and nutrition, as well as regulatory and communication experts.

The focus on the four

Increase integrity and trust in milk and dairy-GDP is working on behalf of its members to coordinate the delivery of generic messages on a global basis to assert the positive attributes of milk and dairy in a proactive way. “One of the key issues is to recapture the core values of dairy, or establishing them where they do not exist, using a firmly established scientific basis,” explained Kevin Bellamy, GDP exec. dir.

“As our global market continues to develop, dairy organizations should share successful marketing messages and campaigns, and use the limited funds in a cooperative way to ensure that generic messages about our industry’s products are being communicated with maximum effectiveness,” Bellamy said.

In addition, GDP is coordinating research to help adult consumers differentiate milkfat from saturated fat. “The goal is to translate the science into meaningful messages to reposition milkfat among consumers,” stressed Bellamy.

Link dairy to healthy weight loss and weight management-Recent scientific advances link milk and dairy products to healthy weight loss and weight management. GDP is proposing to coordinate a meta-analysis among some of the world’s leading nutrition scientists to clarify the mechanisms involved and provide solid evidence to deepen this understanding among consumers and regulators.

Affirm milk and dairy at each life stage-GDP seeks to create a holistic view of dairy products and fermented dairy products as essential at each life stage in the minds of consumers, with particular emphasis on growing the school milk market. GDP will work to create linkages with initiatives already underway, such as possibly exporting the Action for Healthy Kids model in the United States to other geographic markets and supporting the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in setting up an International School Milk Knowledge Center, among other projects.

Reduce barriers to milk and dairy in the regulatory environment-Nutrient profiling, trans fats and the lack of registered claims have the potential to create barriers for dairy businesses around the world. To help industry advocates establish the benefits of dairy among regulators and politicians, GDP is proposing to strengthen and expand upon the work of Dr. David McCarron and Dr. Robert Heaney. The medical scientists published a paper estimating the potential healthcare savings to the U.S. economy associated with adequate (that is, recommended) dairy food intake by consumers. Using conservative estimates, the first-year cost-savings would exceed $26 billion, and yield five-year cumulative savings of about $209 billion, the study indicated.

As GDP plots its future, the organization continues to grow. GDP counts some of the world’s largest and most profitable companies as members, including founding members Arla Foods, Campina, Dairy Farmers of America, Fonterra, and the International Dairy Federation. Other heavy-hitters include Nestle, Danone, Kraft Foods and Land O’Lakes, and dairy-related companies such as TetraPak and DSM. Leaders in the non-profit arena are the U.K. Dairy Council, Dairy Australia, The Gardiner Foundation, Dairy Management Inc., and the Swedish Dairy Association, among many others.