The Top 100 of The Future
by Connie Tipton
Each year, Dairy Field’s Top 100 reflects the continuing changes in our U.S. dairy industry — and in the global dairy industry. Compared to just a decade ago, more of today’s companies are leaders in product development and marketing, and many more have international ties.  
What comes next? Part of our job at IDFA is to have a vision for the future dairy industry. Well, for one thing, the next generation of dairy companies will have to manage the reality of a global marketplace. This is great news for our companies, because the world is going to demand high-quality dairy products and dairy ingredients, and the U.S. dairy market can be the place to find them.
As I said at this year’s Dairy Forum, while the United States may “outsource” for many things — from textiles to electronics — the U.S. dairy industry should do everything it can to make the United States the “in-source” for high-quality dairy products and ingredients.  
To achieve this, we must have the right policies, the supplier partnerships and the innovation that drive the world to us. We want to be the place where multinational companies locate their manufacturing operations, where they’re drawing on our abundant, high-quality milk supply.  
IDFA is doing its part in the new global reality, counseling the U.S. government on trade agreements and their implications for dairy, and helping individual companies with questions and concerns about trade issues.  
But to be the in-source, U.S. dairy companies must also offer the best products. The Top 100 leaders need to deal with the increasing fragmentation of our markets — they’ll need to continue tailoring an array of products to “micro” markets as opposed to mass marketing.  
For milk, this is where an array of flavors, packaging choices or extra nutrients come into play.  For ice cream, it’s the continuation of a wide range of flavors and innovative packaging — as well as newer technologies. The same is true for cheese, which has been leading industry growth by tailoring the taste and performance of various cheeses for pizzas, Italian food, cooking and snacking.  
And our dairy ingredients can help us micro-market other dairy products — as well as other foods and beverages — through added health benefits, as well as through functional properties that allow new kinds of finished products on the shelf.  The dairy ingredients area is one of the most exciting in terms of innovation and new applications.  
Finally, to fuel this innovation and to be an effective in-source for dairy foods and ingredients, we need smart U.S. dairy policy. That means flexibility in formulating our products, pricing formulas that make sense and are more market-oriented, and energy and environmental policies that allow us to grow.  
Let’s face it, right now our domestic policies aren’t always that welcoming to dairy farmers or manufacturers. What this means in terms of Federal Orders, classified pricing and the Dairy Price Support Program are too complex to be solved in 2006. But we are starting a journey together this year that moves us toward a better system — and toward success for Top 100 companies in the years ahead.
Here’s IDFA’s vision: For future Top 100 companies, the U.S. dairy industry will be the focal point for global dairy production, manufacturing and innovation. Let’s be the in-source, a dynamic and competitive industry. Many of the organizations on the following pages are already fulfilling this vision.
Hats off to this year’s Top 100, leading a truly great U.S. dairy foods industry.
Connie Tipton is president and chief executive officer of the International Dairy Foods Association.
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