Editorial Viewpoint

James Dudlicek
Managing Editor
(847) 205-5660 ext. 4009

Facing Challenges

For the next couple of issues, you’ll see a new face in this space. Dairy Field’s editor, Pamela Accetta Smith, is taking some time off after giving birth to her son, Theo. So, as Pamela and her husband get to know the new face in their life and you get to know mine, allow me to introduce a new feature on our pages, “Faces at the Forum.”
Last month, I had the opportunity to attend the Dairy Forum in Boca Raton, Fla. What better place than at the largest gathering of dairy industry executives under one roof to find out how issues facing processors are affecting the movers and shakers among us.
Over the next few months, we’ll share the answers we heard. I’m sure our readers will have many issues in common as the industry soldiers on to new challenges. Check out the first installment of “Faces at the Forum” in MarketWatch on page 12.
Speaking of challenges, new IDFA president and chief executive officer Connie Tipton issued a major one to processors during her keynote address at Dairy Forum. Many in the industry are risk takers, Tipton said, “but collectively, we are ‘risk avoiders.’”
The driving force behind decades of government programs has been to take away risk, but “risk is here to stay,” she said. “It’s part of our reality. That’s because dairy farming changed, dairy processing changed, consumers changed and, most of all, our marketplace changed, including our competitors. … Our success comes from building demand, and that means having to go out on a limb now and then to reap the greater rewards of risk.”
Rather than brace for the risk of failure, Tipton is challenging the industry to change its mindset and risk success, take bold steps in order to grow.
Taking those steps requires realizing the world has changed — more eating out, new food and diet fads, greater competition, among other things — but that the policies governing the dairy industry have not kept pace with that change. And no other food category faces the amount of regulation and standards as dairy, further stifling the industry’s ability to compete effectively in the marketplace.
Tipton is asking the industry to take a fresh look at itself — at its strengths and weaknesses — and imagine how it can work together to make itself stronger. With opportunities like growing vend sales and dairy’s role in weight control, the potential is there.
Processors will be able to explore that potential next month at IDFA’s annual SmartMarketing conference in New Orleans. The gathering will focus on weight-loss marketing, foodservice channel development and new research on dairy benefits and consumer behavior.
In particular, the link to weight control could be the greatest sales opportunity in dairy’s history. With the new health-claim licensing program under way, the time to act is now.
So I second Tipton’s challenge and urge the industry to risk success, and work together to break down barriers to growth and level the playing field so dairy can rise to a new prominence in the American diet.
Retired IDFA CEO Tip Tipton said at a Dairy Forum five years ago, “We must envision how to be the strongest, most competitive dairy industry in the world … without the vision and without the concerted effort, we certainly will fall short of all we can do and be together.”
His words ring as true today as do Connie’s. Without risk, we will never truly know what heights we can hit.
Of course, taking risks often brings about new innovations. So in the meantime, be sure to take a look at our cover story this month on some of the innovative plants DF has visited. They represent some of the best facilities in the industry today.
For a complete transcript of Tipton’s keynote address, visit www.idfa.org.
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