The Milk Marketers of the Year Awards celebrate milk processors’ stellar creative marketing efforts to promote the consumption of milk using Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP) programs. In its second year, the joint awards program from Dairy Foods and MilkPEP was renamed from last year’s Milk Marketer of the Year Awards to reflect two overall winners — a White Milk Marketer of the Year and a Chocolate Milk Marketer of the Year — plus two honorable mentions.

The awards program aims to highlight the “best of the best” marketing campaigns from individual processors — using MilkPEP programs.

Judging this year’s entries were Christian Hess, executive vice president for Arc Worldwide, the shopper marketing arm of Chicago’s Leo Burnett; Beth Englemann, chief marketing communications officer for Rosemont, Ill.-based Dairy Management Inc.; and Kathie Canning, editor-in-chief of Dairy Foods. The judges evaluated the entries on the strength of the marketing program and demonstrable results showing an increase in white or chocolate milk consumption. Marketing efforts that took place between Jan. 1, 2017 and Dec. 31, 2017, were eligible for consideration.

When all was said and done, the judges selected St. Paul, Minn.-based Kemps LLC and Rutter’s Dairy, York, Pa., as the White Milk Marketer of the Year and Chocolate Milk Marketer of the Year, respectively.

“Year over year, we are continually impressed with the brands’ innovative and creative marketing campaigns across the country,” said Kimberly Purcell, manager of industry relations for MilkPEP. “This year’s winners differentiated themselves from the rest by cleverly leveraging MilkPEP assets to enhance their own efforts and make a larger impact on their consumer.”


Multiple strategies

Kemps, the 2018 White Milk Marketer of the Year, said it employed “an aggressive combination of strategies and tactics to reframe milk for consumers in the Upper Midwest” in 2017. The plan comprised four key strategies.

The first strategy was a new brand campaign, Kemps said, resulting from extensive insights-related work. The company developed and tested seven different positioning territories before selecting one that linked the brand to its farmer-owners and their families as the most “consumer relevant.” The consumer targets for the campaign, “Kemps. Good Comes Around,” were millennials and Gen X moms.

The campaign depicted a circle of goodness that starts with the family dairy farmers and is completed when milk-related proceeds from Kemps go back to those farmers and their families. It launched in May 2017 and was communicated via a multimedia approach that included TV, social media and more. Kemps called initial consumer feedback “extremely positive” and pointed to an IPSOS brand equity study that will be implemented in the fourth quarter of 2018 to assess the campaign’s impact on brand equity and brand perception.

For the second strategy, Kemps began with information from MilkPEP’s insights work showing that moms might think dairy-free diets are trendy and as healthful as diets with dairy, but that such diets come with serious tradeoffs, particularly for children. Kemps said it executed the campaign via social influencers, generating approximately 3 million impressions.

The messaging aimed to educate consumers about the overall benefits of milk and to create an emotionally resonant conversation. A comprehensive retailer toolkit, “The Original Farm to Table Superfood,” supplemented the campaign.

“Kemps did an outstanding job leveraging MilkPEP research and insights to deliver an effective multichannel campaign that reminded moms of the benefits of milk over alternatives, resulting in millions of impressions and notable sales increases in their region,” Hess said.

Kemps said it developed and executed programs with grocery retailers Cub Foods, Super One Foods, Festival Foods, Hy-Vee and Roundy’s for the third strategy. The strategy leveraged MilkPEP’s Great American Milk Drive via social/digital communications, retailer ads and point-of-sale materials to drive milk sales and to help provide milk to consumers via food banks.

For the fourth strategy, Kemps leveraged MilkPEP’s investment in the Zach Parise partnership, using imagery of the Minnesota Wild hockey player on-pack across Kemps milk gallons and half-gallons, as well as on single-serve flavored milk. The official tagline was “Kemps. The Official Recovery Beverage of Zach Parise.” Because Parise is a well-loved athlete in Kemps’ marketing area, the company was able to make a positive connection between him and the Kemps brand.

“The judges were impressed with Kemps’ integration of MilkPEP assets across their white milk campaign, especially research,” Purcell noted. “Kemps used our research to develop a strategy to effectively reach moms in a way that was authentic to the brand and, most importantly, their consumer.”

Rachel Kyllo, senior vice president, growth and innovation for Kemps, said the company appreciates the recognition.

“Our mission at Kemps is to passionately transform nature’s pure milk into great products for our consumers and customers every day,” she said. “Being recognized for excellence in this area is a tribute to the hard work of many folks on the Kemps team.”


Connecting with youth

When it started its chocolate milk campaign in August 2017, Rutter’s Dairy had a two-pronged goal: to raise awareness of the benefits of chocolate milk and to increase sales. The Chocolate Milk Marketer of the Year said it realized that milk alternatives were becoming a huge competitor, so it believed it was important to educate its current and potential customers about the “fueled by protein” health benefits that milk delivers.

Leveraging MilkPEP’s exercise recovery-related messaging, Rutter’s campaign included the company’s first-ever commercial, which was pushed out to a number of TV, digital and social media channels. It also can be seen as a pre-roll ad and as an on-demand online video. The commercial features a wide range of young amateur athletes and emphasizes not only chocolate milk’s protein content and essential nutrients, but also its ability to help young athletes replenish, recover and rebuild.

Response to the commercial has been highly positive. In fact, Rutter’s said it has seen a 10% increase in unit sales across the total chocolate milk category since its debut.

But Rutter’s didn’t stop with the commercial. It continued the “healthy kids” theme — and raised awareness of its chocolate milk brand — by becoming the sponsor for a central Pennsylvania TV station’s (Fox43) “Weather Kid Wednesday.” The program selects one middle school or high school child each week to be part of local weatherperson MaryEllen Pann’s 4 p.m. TV forecast.

“Rutter’s creatively seized an opportunity to promote the refuel health benefits of milk and chocolate milk to their customers via an ad spot and local partnerships,” Engelmann said. “Their chocolate milk sales show the ultimate success of their efforts.”

Rick Miller, dairy sales/marketing manager for Rutter’s, said the company is excited to be honored.

“It is a well-received pat on the back for the hard work our team puts into this,” he said. “We made an investment and took a risk and stepped up our marketing efforts in both staff and budget dollars. The goal was to increase topline sales, and we accomplished that — winning the award is ‘moo-sic’ to our ears!”

Todd Rutter, president of Rutter’s Dairy, noted that the results are especially pleasing given the current challenging environment for milk sales.

“We are also proud to still be a family-owned business that will celebrate 100 years in 2021,” he added. 


Honorable mentions go to …

The judges also deemed the efforts of Edwardsville, Ill.-based Prairie Farms Dairy (chocolate milk) and Springfield, Mo.-headquartered Hiland Dairy (white milk) worthy of honorable mentions.

Prairie Farms sponsored the Oct. 1, 2017, MO’ Cowbell Run in St. Charles, Mo., where it promoted Prairie Farms chocolate milk as a recovery drink that rebuilds muscle and replenishes key nutrients after physical exercise. The company said it leveraged MilkPEP’s Build it with Chocolate Milk campaign by setting up a booth with that theme at the two-day “Health EXMO” preceding the race. The booth allowed the company to make an educational impact on the thousands of visitors who attended to pick up their race packets.

On race day, Prairie Farms supplemented the booth with a tent and a truck to provide single-serve samples of chocolate milk to all race participants at the finish line, as well as to their families and friends. It used MilkPEP assets such as tablecloths and towels, as well as Prairie Farms branding, to attract visitors to the booth. By participating in such a large local race (4,200 runners), the company said it was able to make a positive impact on consumers’ buying preferences.

“Prairie Farms has been providing chocolate milk to the runners at the finish line of the MO’ Cowbell Marathon for over five years,” noted Carol Stewart, account manager for the company. “We are most proud that our continued efforts have been successful in educating athletes and influencing their decision to choose chocolate milk as the best post-race recovery beverage for their health.”

For its part, Hiland Dairy leveraged MilkPEP’s mom/kid research to implement an email track strategy for 2017. The campaign comprised a series of four different topics designed to develop a connection with moms: “Get Healthy with Hiland,” “Meal Planning with Hiland,” “Back to School with Hiland” and “Host the Holidays Like a Pro.” The content for the email series resides on Hiland Dairy’s website (

In addition to helpful tips related to healthy living, meal planning and other topics, each email in the series leveraged inspiration and recipes from, Hiland Dairy said. Each part of the series was executed using an integrated media mix of digital, influencer and social media — and also included consumer giveaways and measurement rewards.

The strategy resulted in more than 100,000 clicks to the series’ landing pages, as well as sales lifts in milk and other key categories.

“At Hiland, we believe brand loyalty is built not only by providing our consumers with great products, but also by engaging beyond the sale to improve our customers’ lives in measurable ways,” said Rick Beaman, vice president. “Our email series was able to do just that, and we are very happy with the engagement we’ve seen so far.”