It is with great pride that I assume the role of chief editor of Dairy Foods. I’m sure you’re all familiar with my work at the other end of the book, as editor of Dairy Field Reports for the past year and before then my five years at Dairy Field. Many of you also know me from my frequent visits to processors all over the country, an adventure that I plan to continue, so I may be knocking on your door soon.
I’d also like to introduce our new managing editor, Marina Mayer. Marina comes to us with experience in the snack food and baking industries at one of our sister publications, and will be in charge of our Newsline, Dairy Market Trends and Buyers Mart sections, along with some feature pieces.
We, like many other businesses in our current economic climate, have undergone some unexpected changes. But do not think this will impair our ability to continue delivering you the best information in the business about what we think is the best industry in all of food manufacturing. In fact, this month we’re launching Global Insights, a quarterly column penned by our friends at the U.S. Dairy Export Council about the dynamic world marketplace.
So don’t let the doom and gloom get you down. And by the looks of things out there, the dairy industry is weathering the storm pretty well.
Our colleagues in Dallas, the 800-pound gorilla known as Dean Foods, just reported having its best quarter in history, crediting a drop in raw milk and oil prices along with other cost-saving initiatives. Other companies, like Foremost Farms featured in this issue, are transforming their operations to better address the needs of customers and consumers also grappling with fiscal woes. People eating out less often? Make more products for retail. Fewer pizzas consumed in restaurants? Sell cheese to manufacturers of frozen pizza.
Still others are forging ahead with capital projects, confident of the light at the end of the tunnel. Leprino Foods, Dairy Farmers of America, Hilmar Cheese, Byrne Dairy, Davisco Foods – these companies and others have plant construction or expansion plans under way or on the drawing board.
This is no time to run for cover. As Connie Tipton declared in her keynote address at Dairy Forum in January: “In 2009, the dairy industry must move forward. Not toward ‘more of the same.’ Not toward ‘let’s wait and see.’ So it’s time to take a good, hard look at the challenges coming our way and how we get in front of them.”
Topping recent headlines, alongside the peanut recall, is the Obama administration’s economic stimulus package, thus far garnering mixed reviews. Dairy processors tend to be a skeptical bunch when it comes to government, a sentiment expressed to me recently by Davisco’s Jon Davis: “It’s hard not to be skeptical as to possible government intervention, because it has historically enabled inefficient sectors of our industry, instead of providing a responsible forward-thinking approach to using policy and government involvement to help move our industry forward.”
Meanwhile, Stonyfield Farm’s Gary Hirshberg, who in my experience is a political minority among processors, says: “I believe the solutions we can expect from the Obama administration certainly will benefit the dairy industry as well as our agricultural system as a whole, emphasizing the use of renewable energy, encouraging sustainable farming practices that preserve our natural resources, seriously reducing our climate impacts, and investing in support systems that truly help farmers to be healthy and profitable.”
In any case, don’t wait to see what the government is going to do before acting to ensure your own future as an important player in the global dairy industry. Do what any good business does – make yourself important to consumers right now. Maybe they can’t afford to buy a new car, but they can ease their pain with a grilled-cheese sandwich or a pint of Chunky Monkey.
Don’t fall victim to the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune. As Connie said at Forum, be a leader who isn’t afraid to explore the unknowns of market potential.