Guida’s On The Industry

Q: What are the main challenges in restoring milk to its former prominence?
Mike Guida: At one time, for beverages, there was milk and soda. Milk is healthier than soda, so it was a no-brainer. Now, with the fruit drinks and juices and energy beverages, it’s definitely a challenge. The big companies we’re competing against have the advertising dollars. At times, the dairy industry is its own worst enemy. When Dean and Hood went head to head on natural vitamins, that hurt the industry as a whole. The BST issue is, in a way, hurting the industry as well.
Al Guida: We’re finally seeing where milk is getting back into a much more recognized, favorable, cutting-edge status rather than being a staid commodity item. Carbonated beverage sales are going down. People’s concerns are wholesomeness and purity and local sourcing — I think that’s a whole new wave. … Our job is to re-emphasize and re-educate people on the values and benefits of milk. For the first time in a long, long time, carbonated beverages are on a slide. When people start coming into your business and try to emulate your product, what does that tell you?
MG: I think flavored milk is definitely a big plus. It’s one of the most healthy beverages. It’s still the best buy for the dollar. The 3-A-Day program, and weight loss and health, we should certainly push that more.
Q: Guida’s is involved with the “Milk Rocks!” school milk program. Describe your experience with your school customers.
AG: There’s still a bid mentality. You introduce a new item one year, the next year it’s on a bid. You don’t have a chance to recover and get any sufficient returns. They’ve got to think long-term. Things didn’t change for 50 years; a school lunch director would start at 20 years old and retire at 65 — same one — and probably didn’t change their milk bids more than two times during that career. Now, everything’s upside-down, changing at warp speed. There’s a tremendous fear and confusion, a lack of good information. They’re reactionary rather than proactive.
Q: What’s next for the industry?
AG: I see a whole new era that’s been growing. Organic has led the way. Organic used to only be available in special places, now it’s everywhere. It’s gotten into commodity sizes, gallon jugs. … The consumer isn’t being forced. It’s one thing if someone muscles their way in. But when consumers accept it with open arms, you know you’ve hit paydirt. That’s why I see there’s hope for companies like ours. We don’t have to worry about low-cost-commodity providers and who can beat up whom, who can cut their cost the most.