Plus, a Dairy Foods exclusive: Q&A with the new chief ...

The board of the Milk Processor Education Program has announced the appointment of Vivien Godfrey as chief executive officer of the organization, which manages the award-winning and iconic National Milk Mustache “got milk?” Campaign. Godfrey replaces Kurt Graetzer, who retired from MilkPEP after leading the program for the past 14-plus years in its 16-year history. Godfrey’s first official day as CEO was May 11. 

Godfrey’s experience includes an extensive period of strategic consulting with McKinsey & Company in London and Toronto; high-level consumer goods marketing and advertising experience with Diegeo Plc.; and U.S. dairy credentials as CEO of Haagen-Dazs North America (The Pillsbury Co.) from 1996-2000. Since 2000, Godfrey has managed her own business, Far Horizons LLC, a marine data retailing company. Godfrey grew up in the United Kingdom and lived in four other countries before moving to the United States in 1992.

“We’re delighted to find in Vivien someone who brings powerful strategic and marketing disciplines to the program, as well as terrific dairy marketing experience,” said Mike Krueger, MilkPEP chairman and senior vice president/general manager of Shamrock Foods Co.’s Dairy Division. “These credentials – combined with her energy and management skills – will be indispensible as we move forward with a program that has already changed how America thinks about milk.”

“I’m thrilled to be taking the reins of this great program,” Godfrey said. “MilkPEP and the hard work of milk companies over the past decade have built the foundation for milk as a competitive, contemporary beverage in the United States. Now the program is ready to take steps toward a longer-term, strategic vision. This will allow the milk industry to more fully leverage the program, keep it relevant and fresh, and make it even more effective."

MilkPEP is funded by U.S. milk processors with the mission of educating Americans about the many nutritional benefits of drinking milk and spurring increased milk consumption.


A meet-and-greet with Vivien Godfrey

What drew you to MilkPEP?

First of all, the Milk Mustache Campaign is just one of those rare, powerful programs – it has done great things to keep milk relevant, and to get more people drinking milk. I’m eager to build on that. I’m also excited to represent such an exceptional product, and to continue to stress its nutritional strengths, which are also fantastic marketing strengths.

In taking the new job, I jokingly say I had the nine-year itch. I spent around nine years in my first career with McKinsey & Company, then nine years with Diageo Plc, and then nine years running my own business. Each of these experiences was challenging and satisfying in its own way, but there comes a point when change is good and I was ready for a change.

What kinds of strengths do you bring to the milk industry?

These previous job experiences provided me with expertise in strategic thinking, managing a large business in a large corporate environment and, most recently, running a small private business. I think there is relevance and usefulness in all three experiences when it comes to MilkPEP.

You grew up in London and lived in four other countries before coming to the United States in the early ’90s. How does that affect your perspective on U.S. milk industry?

Having a global perspective is becoming more important, I think, as businesses are affected by the dynamics of global competition and issues. Of course this is a U.S. program, but it can be informed and affected by things going on elsewhere.

On a lighter note, I tease my colleagues that the British were the first to bring milk cows to this country – to the Jamestown Colony in 1611 – so, of course, there’s a deep connection when it comes to milk!

What were your first impressions coming onto the job?

The first moment I stepped into the MilkPEP offices in Washington, D.C., I noticed that the walls are filled with the images of our Milk Mustache celebrities. I was very impressed by the diversity of the personalities who have been featured in the program over 15 years from so many walks of life – sports, acting, business, music and fashion, to name a few. It made a tremendous impression on me to see so many celebrities who are held in high esteem, who obviously wanted to be part of our campaign.

Another strong impression is the positive character of the people in this industry. Obviously I’m just beginning to get to know everyone, but already it has been wonderful coming back to the dairy industry after 10 years, and talking with the leadership of the companies and national organizations. It is an honor to be the CEO of MilkPEP.

Does your experience as CEO of Häagen-Dazs translate well to this new position?

Very much so. First, I have some understanding of issues particular to dairy such as classes of milk, shelf life and safety concerns, and the impact of USDA regulation on dairy products. Second, the Häagen-Dazs business became successful by working with independent businesses including distributors and franchisees. I worked with those business partners to ensure joint success. This is one of the core aspects of MilkPEP – working with the milk processors who contribute the funds to our program to ensure joint success. Third, Häagen-Dazs was a brand that balanced spending between advertising, consumer and trade promotions and public relations, very similar to MilkPEP.

What are your immediate and long-term goals?

In the short term I’m learning as much as I can about why consumers do or don’t drink milk, and how MilkPEP spends its funds to both understand and influence our consumer to drink more milk. A big focus of mine is to talk with the leadership at the milk companies who fund this program. I’m listening and taking in the information that will help set the program’s course moving forward. Along those lines, I look forward to introducing a long-term strategic planning process to MilkPEP, which will help us map out our future plans clearly to guide our initiatives.

What are you hearing so far from the processors?

A variety of things – all helpful. Some processors want more information from us. I can see, too, that over the past 10 years, the processors have become more innovative and marketing-oriented. There’s an excellent opportunity to make sure we continue to deliver the tools they need to convey the tremendous benefits of drinking milk, and to build synergies between the local efforts of milk companies and the national program.

How important is the Milk Mustache “got milk?” Campaign to the industry?

There’s no question that milk’s voice might easily be drowned out without this excellent program. The campaign is highly recognized by the retail trades and other milk customers, as well as moms, teens and other key audiences – there’s a lot of positive energy behind milk.

It’s clear to me that the program has significantly improved milk’s image and market position, not just through advertising, but also by helping milk companies explore ways to expand distribution, improve packaging and develop new flavors and products.

I would add that I’m very impressed with the results of the annual marketing mix analysis, which shows that the program is positive both in maintaining the base and driving incremental sales.  Our milk companies are getting a great return on their investment -- almost $9 for every $1 spent on the program in 2008. You rarely see returns like this in a branded program. 

You said before that milk has some fantastic marketing strengths. How do you think it stacks up against competition from other beverages?

From my perspective, milk is very “on-trend.” People are looking for foods that are naturally wholesome and nutrient-rich. Nothing tops milk in that regard. Our recent campaigns call it “nature’s wellness drink,” which is great positioning.

I think it’s also good that MilkPEP has been touting milk as a terrific value. No beverage can beat it for that nutritional value. Teaming up with personal finance guru Suze Orman to get that message out was a great choice.

Who will be next to wear a Milk Mustache?

We’ve teamed up with the superhero Wolverine in conjunction with the movie release. And it’s a great fit for milk. Wolverine is a character who can rebuild his body faster than an ordinary human. And in real life, milk contains the nutrients that help build muscle and refuel tired bodies after a workout. So, it’s a great message for teens, as part of the Body By Milk program.

There will also be a new ad with the reality show “The Biggest Loser” on NBC, one of the highest-rated shows on TV. The season finale is right around the corner, and the winner will get his or her own Milk Mustache ad. Again, this reinforces the role of drinking milk in a healthy, active life, so it’s another great fit for us.

What else will the program be doing in the coming months of which we should be aware?

The new “Drink Well. Live Well” campaign helps draw attention to the many wellness benefits of milk and the unique attributes of being a milk drinker. Studies suggest that people who drink milk tend to have healthier diets and are likely to be leaner than people who drink little or no milk. 

And, in terms of outreach to teens, MilkPEP will continue to work with the NBA to help reverse the trend of inactivity and childhood obesity. This involves schools, community and online activities.

There’s a lot going on, and I couldn’t be more excited to be in this industry and heading MilkPEP.