It’s hard to beat a pep rally as a means to spur excitement among a collective high school student body before a big game. It’s been a while (quite a while) since I was in high school, but I can close my eyes and still hear the cheers and the fight song thundering in the confines of my school’s gymnasium.

But pep rallies — loosely defined for the purposes of this column as events that bring people together to build enthusiasm for something — have a role beyond high school sporting events. And they certainly can play a part in stirring up excitement for the mature dairy food and beverage category.


They’ve got the right idea

Several dairy organizations recently hosted — or are planning to host — what could be viewed as highly creative pep rallies for dairy foods and beverages.

On Feb. 22, the California Milk Advisory Board, Tracy, Calif., welcomed the public to the “world’s first dairy dispensary” — doling out what it calls the “original edibles”: CBD (California-based dairy). The pop-up event in Venice, Calif., highlighted “the natural mood-enhancing properties of California dairy foods, as represented by varieties of cheese, micro-dosed butters, flavor-infused yogurts and rolled ice cream — all the TLC with zero THC or cannabis.”

During the event, attendees also could speak with a knowledgeable “dairy docent” to discover the dairy variety that’s right for them.

“California-based dairy foods, or CBD for short, not only taste delicious but are a natural way to enter a golden state of feeling everything from bliss to excitement,” said John Talbot, CEO of the California Milk Advisory Board, in a press release announcing the event. “A dispensary-inspired setting offers consumers an unexpected and unforgettable way to experience their favorite foods made with real milk produced on family dairy farms using the nation’s most sustainable farming practices.”

Not to be outdone, Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin said it will be hosting the first ever Art of Cheese Festival Aug. 14-16, 2020, in honor of National Cheese Lovers Day. The festival, which will be held in Madison, Wis., will feature an array of cheese-focused activities.

In true pep rally form, the event is designed to encourage a collective passion for cheese among the expected crowd of participants. It will include cheesemaking, cooking and cheese-pairing classes led by experts; exclusive tours, via the “cheese bus,” to Wisconsin dairy farms and creameries; the Outstanding in the Field Dinner, an outdoor dining experience with a four-course, cheese-focused meal prepared by world-class local chefs; a pop-up market for sampling and purchasing Wisconsin cheese; the Cheese Ball, featuring live music, food and drinks; and more.

And a popular ice cream company recently hosted what could be viewed as a simultaneous set of pep rallies for its ice cream and retail brand. On Feb. 1, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams of Columbus, Ohio, celebrated its fourth annual “Ice Cream for Breakfast Day.” To mark the occasion, Jeni’s shops across the country welcomed consumers from 8:00 a.m. to noon for a first taste of Jeni’s brand new flavor, Skillet Cinnamon Roll — cream cheese ice cream with dark caramel sauce, pastry and cinnamon.


Virtual events work, too

Dairy-focused pep rallies need not be limited to live gatherings, however. Case in point: Tillamook Country Cream Association, Tillamook, Ore., took to social media to celebrate National Cheddar Day on Feb. 13 — and build some excitement for its own cheddar cheese among the company’s 650,000-plus collective fans and followers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The event included recipe collaborations and live demos with Bon Appétit’s Brad Leone, fun activities, and the opportunity for participants to share their celebrations using #NationalCheddarDay and tagging @Tillamook/@TillamookDairy. The cooperative also said it’s upping the ante from its inaugural celebration last year, with 2 tons of cheesy giveaways.

All of these dairy organizations have done a commendable job in bringing people together to cheer on dairy products. Is it time for your company to plan a dairy pep rally?