“The rotten milk business,” “Milk, is it making us ill?” “The madness with milk,” and “Milk – the fight over the white stuff” – the dairy industry has been struggling with these and similar headlines for some time. Claims like these harm the reputation of a valuable product and do us enormous damage. Modern agricultural business operators want to present dairy farming as it is: concerned with animal welfare, sustainable and efficient. Milk produced by farmers provides the basis for many healthy foods that are on sale in supermarkets. United communication about the industry is more important and more urgent than ever, so people again come to value agriculture and the performance behind the product.
And that’s exactly what communicating for the whole industry is all about. We show who we are and what we do and actively take the lead in explaining how much milk matters. Let’s take a moment and reflect where we could have done better. In the past, we have been too passive about communicating with the world, assuming that a high-quality product like milk stood for itself and we did not need to say much more about it. That gave too much space to those who criticize our top-class product. Milk might be in the refrigerators of many consumers but sadly, it is not on their minds. We realize that particularly with younger people.
Milk has been a constant for older shoppers, always there since they were children. That’s not necessarily the case for later generations. Many young people are very critical about milk, questioning it, becoming vegans and demanding products that are sustainable and healthy – including milk. That is a change we have to face and it’s more important than ever that we acknowledge this. We need to target our communications as an industry with a strategy to excite tomorrow’s customers about milk. We need to be able to create a new kind of awareness.
“There are endless possibilities to show the true face of the dairy industry in social media.”
Ingo Müller, CEO DMK
If we stand united with a shared communications strategy, we can reach young people online in the social media channels that are so popular. There, the possibilities are endless to show the true face of the dairy industry. We can adjust to the pace of consumers who are embracing digital technology. We can also create a newsroom with an editorial team who can answer questions from the media, politicians and non-governmental organizations, with open, transparent support and expertise. That would create trust. I think communicating together as a sector is not only long overdue – but is also particularly important given the crisis unleashed by the pandemic.
In Germany, the latest health restrictions are leading many to return to some of the essential, everyday rituals, such as cooking, shopping and eating together. People are again realizing the importance of family, solidarity, tradition and loyalty to local businesses. The trend towards snacks on the go is lessening, while the classic meal pattern of breakfast, lunch and dinner is more important than ever. This change of values allows an opportunity for milk to regain its central position as a staple for families. We won’t reach that goal with negative headlines about the dairy industry, though. What we need as an industry is to communicate with a single voice.