Looking Back:  Rick Beaman

Many years ago, we use to deliver dairy products by horse and wagon. Currently, we deliver our products on 46-foot tractor-trailers.  Distribution is just one small aspect of the many changes that have occurred over the past 100 years, my own experience over the past 31. Every day, we evolve to become more professional to attain state-of-the-art status.  
The industry has vastly consolidated over the past 10 years and for good reasons. Today we are primarily competing with other beverages. Share of stomach has been taken away from dairy and we are fighting to regain that volume. We are doing this through great marketing programs and education of our consumers on how important dairy is in their diets. The MilkPEP program has done wonders in slowing a negative trend in consumption. Innovative packaging has allowed us to better serve consumer needs and has opened doors to foodservice we were not enjoying previously.  
Our retail grocery chains are also in a consolidation mode and this has changed our go-to-market strategy. Retailers are looking for greater volume SKUs and deleting non-performers. It is our job to look for new products and ideas to keep dairy alive and doing well.  
The systems changes happening on the IT side of our business are phenomenal. Advanced technology has allowed us to improve communication with customers and suppliers. We have to be willing to experiment with emerging technology or we will fall behind.  
Over the years, the dairy industry has been accused of being slow to change. If you look at what has been accomplished over the past 100 years, you will realize we have not only accepted change, but we have embraced it and improved our way of doing business.
Innovation and new technology are great improvements, but we must never forget the basics. Produce the best quality products we can, deliver it cold and on time, and listen to our customers’ and consumers’ needs, and we will carry on the dairy tradition for at least another 100 years.  
Rick Beaman is chief operating officer of Dean Foods Co.’s Southwest Region.