New Weigh to Market

by Shonda Talerico Dudlicek

Weight-loss messaging brings fresh opportunities to boost sales.

It’s big. It’s new. It’s fresh. Some in the industry are even calling it the biggest thing in dairy since pasteurization.
It’s a new message — steeped in science and cause for jubilation among processors and producers alike — that consuming dairy products can help with weight loss.
This campaign differs from others because it doesn’t focus on the generic messages and benefits of dairy products, but gives processors an opportunity to make weight-loss claims on-package and tailors the message to their particular products and marketing campaigns.
The study, conducted by Dr. Michael Zemel at the University of Tennessee, examined the effect of dairy products on the body’s metabolism, calcium and protein. Originally, the 1980s study examined blood pressure and the effects of black males eating three servings a day of yogurt. The study found they lost weight in the form of fat and preserved lean muscle mass. At the time, there wasn’t a clear understanding to the link and why it was happened, so the research sat. Zemel formulated a hypothesis that adequate levels of dairy products correlate with lower weight, body mass index, fat levels and leaner body mass. Another study looked at adequate servings, and various trials, studies and research over the last four years supported the study — that an adequate number of dairy servings daily would help burn fat more efficiently.
Zemel applied for a patent for his research, and Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) came on board as a co-researcher with the university to retain licensing rights and elevate the ownership and acquired rights to license to the dairy industry. Working with the university, DMI has exclusive rights to license the patented study, and the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) grants licenses to dairy processors. Before processors can make weight-loss claims linked to their products or in their marketing plans, they need to be licensed through Washington, D.C.-based IDFA.
“It’s a simple message that everyone can use to leverage the power of their own products,” says Grant Prentice, executive vice president of marketing and business development at Rose­mont, Ill.-based DMI.
This program is most effective if the messages are conveyed through processors and their specific products, Prentice says. “It’s not just IDFA and DMI. Branded companies and manufacturers must take the stuff we develop, build on it to sell their brands. They must put it on packages and use it in their marketing messages. What’s their unique message for Dean’s milk or Kraft cheese or Yoplait yogurt? What do they say that’s unique?”
Generic marketing messages will continue. “We need to have a generic category message. What’s increasingly important is for processors to use it and tell their story. The world is a more competitive place with other big food and beverage companies such as the PepsiCo’s and other food conglomerates,” Prentice says.
Dairy processors are enthusiastic, he says, adding, “Ideally, this is how we’d like to move forward.”
IDFA’s Web site gives processors information and guidance on what they can do with their packaging and advertising. Details are outlined at (see sidebar).
Messages used by processors “depend on the product and how naturally rich the product is in calcium and protein,” says Susan Ruland, IDFA vice president of communications. “We didn’t want a lot of calcium supplement companies trying to use this. The University of Tennessee and DMI wanted to patent this because the message belongs more to dairy products. It’s very specific to dairy. DMI worked with IDFA on how to make this happen.”
Processors can make an intellectual property claim, and the goal is to make it widely available to those who make dairy products. Milk, cheese and yogurt can make more aggressive claims than ice cream, and frozen novelties are excluded from making such claims, according to IDFA’s Web site.
“We’ve already seen a number of different signs that this campaign is working,” Prentice says. “We’ve tested the advertising messages so they’re compelling and working. When we show moms they see how important it is to incorporate dairy into a diet.”
DMI’s messaging includes all three servings a day of milk, cheese and yogurt. “It’s a number, a simple way to eat. Just three servings a day. The message is a call to action; no grams of this or that to count. In a controlled-calorie diet, you can have skim milk, yogurt and a full-fat cheese. It’s a wonderful permission slip. When you mix in weight-loss news with three servings a day, that’s an extremely compelling message,” Prentice says.
“This weight-loss claim is the biggest claim to hit dairy news since pasteurization. It’s a relevant consumer message as long as we don’t get out ahead of the science and communicate in a responsible manner. It’s not just about dairy — you’ve got to cut back calories and exercise more.”
Lifelong Value
Anderson Erickson Dairy (AE) is one of the first companies to be licensed by IDFA to make weight-loss claims. Betsy Watson, AE marketing specialist, says the Des Moines, Iowa-based dairy processor will specifically target its lowfat and fat-free milks and yogurts. AE has a long history of promoting the health benefits of dairy, and is the only processor to make real dairy yogurt with added soy protein, shown to be particularly beneficial for women’s health.
“AE plans on expanding consumer awareness through advertising and public relations,” Watson says. “We will focus on the dairy/weight-loss tie by presenting the hard data so consumers understand and believe this additional benefit milk now is known to have.”
Miriam Erickson Brown, AE president and chief executive officer, seemed to foreshadow the current campaign in an interview with Dairy Field last fall. “I’m on the MilkPEP board, and through that we have an amazing source of information and research that we can utilize,” she said. “They have breaking research on weight loss, and carbohydrate and protein research. Guided by that research, we’ve become known as the dairy experts. That’s how we want to be positioned. And we try to stay in touch with all the current trends in diet and where consumers’ attitudes and feelings are about their diets and what the key words are for them.”
Chelsea, Mass.-based HP Hood Inc. has already actively promoted the healthful aspects of its products through marketing, advertising, promotion, packaging and public relations efforts, says Mary Ellen Spencer, vice president of brand marketing.
“Examples of this are our product packaging design and messaging, on the Hood Web site, in our Hood Answer Mom TV and radio advertising campaigns and during our PR sampling events and promotions — where we have the opportunity to interact directly with consumers and talk to them about the nutritional benefits of Hood products,” Spencer says.
Hood offers Simply Smart™, a line of fat-free and lowfat milk made with an ultrafiltration process to taste like 2% and whole milk, respectively. “We developed Simply Smart to meet the consumer demand for great-tasting milk with less fat and an added benefit of more natural calcium and protein,” Spencer says.
Hood also makes Carb Countdown™, a line of dairy beverages and yogurts with fewer carbohydrates than their regular counterparts. “These groundbreaking products are the only line of Atkins-approved refrigerated dairy products developed specifically for people who follow a low-carbohydrate diet. Carb Countdown is part of Hood’s tradition of filling a consumer need,” Spencer says. “More and more people are following low-carb diet plans and they often struggle with dairy because of the carbohydrates. We developed Carb Countdown dairy beverages and yogurt to get people back into dairy and consumers have been very receptive to it.”
Organic yogurt mainstay Stonyfield Farm has used extensive public campaigns to promote the health attributes of its products, says Gary Hirshberg, president and chief executive officer. The Londonderry, N.H.-based processor also touts the health characteristics of its products in print advertising.
Hirshberg is pleased with the new research linking dairy calcium to weight control. “This new research regarding the link to calcium and its role in weight control is very valuable to any company that produces dairy products,” he says. “At this stage of the game, we have not done anything specific with this information, although it is still indirectly increasing the sale of our products as the study has been receiving a great deal of attention from the media.”
Hirshberg stresses that all Stonyfield Farm products have the same health benefits, and that the company doesn’t specifically promote one over another in the health-claims arena. “However, we do differentiate many of our products from other similar products on the market by emphasizing their advantages,” he says. “For example, we’ve created a variety of yogurts with children’s unique health needs in mind. YoBaby, an organic yogurt for babies and toddlers, is naturally high in calcium and protein and made with whole milk that pediatricians recommend.”
Minneapolis-based Yoplait-Colombo USA licensed directly with the University of Tennessee to make the link between eating yogurt and weight loss, and messages have already started appearing on lowfat yogurt packaging.
“It’s a very aggressive way to use the claim,” says DMI’s Prentice. Yoplait’s Web site,, outlines Zemel’s 12-week study that examines “what happens when you include yogurt in a weight loss diet.”
Groups like the Dairy Council of California (DCC), which teach a lifelong value for milk and dairy products, are ecstatic about the emerging weight-loss research. “This makes our jobs even more exciting,” says Mary Ann Burkman, director of program services and development for Sacramento, Calif.-based DCC.
Programs will be retooled to address the weight loss connection, being careful to only use content that’s fully supported by research, Burkman says. “We’ve started to incorporate the healthy weight with dairy message in our calcium program. In the past we’ve talked about bone health for building and maintaining strong bones, but now we’ve expanded our message to include other benefits in addition to the positive effects on hypertension and cancers. We will continue to revise our programs — we’re working it into our Web site and in schools with our afterschool care program for kids and parents — as it makes sense,” she says.
“As people are becoming more familiar with it and as the attention is growing, people are taking a second look at dairy products. There is a lot we can do to reinforce it. The 3-A-Day of Dairy raises awareness. The word’s getting out there, but is there more we can do? Yes.”
3-A-Day to 24/24
Maybe you’ve seen the commercials backed by the catchy oldies song, “1-2-3,” or heard or read accounts in the mass media about the weight-loss benefits garnered from consuming three servings of dairy a day. Dietitians and nutritionists are proudly wearing 3-A-Day pins on their lapels and health professionals are singing the praises of milk in a balanced diet. Word is getting out there. News reports publicizing Zemel’s study have circulated for months, even before dairy industry groups began running their ads.
“3-A-Day is a brand that explains how and why people need to get three servings a day,” says Prentice. “Our goal is not to do the 3-A-Day alone. It’s a real simple message that consumers and health professional groups can carry to their patients about why and how much they should be getting. We want processors to incorporate these claims into their packaging and marketing materials.”
The 3-A-Day of Dairy program as it exists now will evolve to weight-loss messaging. The newest marketing effort from MilkPEP, “24/24 Milk Your Diet Lose Weight,” will be released in May for a summer of numerous promotions. MilkPEP’s integrated campaign includes advertising, grassroots efforts and Internet and on-pack messaging, but the group “hopes processors will take it and make it their own,” says Corinne McGarity, IDFA/MilkPEP senior director of marketing. Just as with the on-package weight-loss claims, dairy processors need IDFA licensing to use 24/24 research.
This milk-specific program advises consumers to drink 24 ounces of milk every 24 hours. “It’s a new way to think about getting three glasses of milk to help consumers understand how they can lose weight,” McGarity says. “All studies that suggest a unique combination of calcium and protein will help burn more fat if you’re dieting. It works if you’re getting an adequate level of dairy calcium. It’s a new, fresh way to get the message out. Research has proven that calcium alone helps the body metabolize fat and Dr. Zemel suggests that dairy calcium helps the body metabolize more fat. There is continued science being done to support the science.”
Dr. Phil McGraw is the newest milk mustache celebrity — his ads will launch nationwide in May — and the TV psychologist is one of the first celebrities to tackle the nation’s obesity issue, targeting the “mom” demographic.
Moms are key, and the integrated 24/24 program will kick off in mid-May with targeted TV ads and a 24-minute workout taking over the block of 24th Street in New York City in a partnership with Bally Total Fitness. “We wanted to partner with exercise because it’s an integral part of the message,” McGarity says.
A summertime grassroots tour will feature a decorated truck visiting 100 markets to communicate the new benefit of dairy. Summer retail promotions include a partnership with Shape magazine, “The Shape You Want to Be In,” offering a free 24/24 fitness guide with purchase of milk with in-store displays; and a “Show Off With the Top Down” promotion giving away 24 Volkswagen New Beetle white convertibles in 24 days.
McGarity says MilkPEP invested $6 million in this program from October 2003 to January 2004. “We’ve done lots of testing and found the idea that milk can help you lose weight because it’s a compelling message. But there is still inherent skepticism among dieters. Whole milk is OK as part of a reduced-calorie diet. The important thing is to make sure you get an adequate amount daily. It’s not a milk diet that we’re advocating, just get an adequate amount. It’s a more effective way to lose weight,” she says.
“We’re excited about the opportunity to give consumers a new message about milk. Milk sales have been relatively flat over the last several years. We hope this will give processors a program they can tie into and customize. There is lots they can do with retail and on-package. We give them a new way to look at milk.”
Consumers can read the studies themselves at, set to be launched in May. The site will link to all the studies that show dairy consumption and weight loss. Another new Web site, www.healthyweightwith, links to all National Dairy Council studies and shows abstracts of other research.
“24/24 will give tips for consumers on how to incorporate 24 ounces of milk in a day,” McGarity says. “When you ask consumers, they don’t really have an understanding. But 24 ounces isn’t a lot and it’s easy to include that in your diet. Twenty-four ounces is smaller than a Big Gulp at the local c-store; 24 ounces is not that much.”
Prentice echoes McGarity’s sentiment. “America is a one-and-a-half-servings-a-day country. If we upped it to three, we’d all be a lot better.”
A freelance writer and editor, Shonda Talerico Dudlicek is a former managing editor of Dairy Field.
Calcium Weight-Loss Claim Licensing
The 15-year IDFA licenses cover all products processed, marketed and sold within the field of use of the license. Retailers need a license to make claims on private label or store-owned brands.
Three different production fee structures are based on annual production volume for cheese, milk and cultured products. All are one-time member fees.
-Milk: From $500 for less than 20 million gallons to $15,000 for more than 600 million gallons.
-Cultured products: From $750 for less than 30 million pounds to $22,000 for more than 1 billion pounds.
-Cheese: From $750 for less than 30 million pounds to $22,000 for more than 1 billion pounds.

Making Claims
The following products may carry weight-loss claims: standardized dairy products (excluding frozen desserts); non-standardized dairy products generally regarded as milk, yogurt or cheese; and all fluid milk products that yield at least 10 percent of the daily value of calcium and protein if at least 66 percent of the required daily value for calcium and protein is derived from dairy ingredients (50 percent for cottage cheese).
Claim Guidance
Claims should be in the context of a healthy, calorie-controlled diet with adequate calcium.
-If product is an “excellent source” of calcium before fortification, can promote weight-control benefits of three to four servings daily. Includes fat-free, lowfat and reduced-fat milk including flavored versions; fat-free, lowfat and regular yogurts; and reduced-fat mozzarella cheese.
-If product is an “excellent source” of calcium after fortification, claims may represent benefits attributable to calcium fortification. Includes calcium-fortified yogurts and lowfat cottage cheese.
-If product is a “good source” of calcium, weight-control claims can represent the beneficial level of dairy consumption. Includes lowfat ricotta and reduced-fat mozzarella.
-Product must be a “good source” of protein from dairy ingredients.
-Products containing fat, saturated fat, cholesterol or sodium exceeding Food and Drug Administration ceiling levels must make a disclosure statement when making a weight-loss claim. These products would have per serving more than 13 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 60 milligrams of cholesterol or 480 milligrams of sodium. Includes whole milk, low-moisture part-skim mozzarella, string, Swiss, cheddar, Monterey jack and muenster, shredded cheese made with 2% milk and added calcium, fat-free processed cheese product and light cheddar.
Visit for sample claims and more information.
Source: International Dairy Foods Association Web site
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