Midwest Dairy, which promotes dairy in a 10-state region in the Midwest, has approved a new three-year operating plan that, among other things, emphasizes e-commerce and working with family-friendly museums.

The new plan "refreshed and modernized" how the organization does some things, based in part on lessons learned during the pandemic, said Molly Pelzer, the group's CEO.

Molly Pelzer is the CEO of Midwest Dairy.
Molly Pelzer is the CEO of Midwest Dairy.
"We know that grocery shopping is still very important, but many shoppers are now online. About 25% of Americans started e-shopping during the pandemic, and a lot of them plan to continue," Pelzer said. "We are trying to make sure that milk, cheese, yogurt and other products pop up in that online shopping much like you run into them at the grocery store."

Working with museums for children, as well as science museums, are "a great opportunity to connect with both youth and their families," she said.

The plan has five main components.

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  • Increasing dairy sales: The organization will continue to collaborate with retail and foodservice partners, with e-commerce and online shopping taking on even greater importance.
  • Increasing trust in dairy: Working through partners, Midwest Dairy will continue to share dairy’s sustainable nutrition story and form deeper connections with consumers — especially parents and Generation Z, or the 72 million people born between 1996 and 2010.
  • Advancing dairy research: The organization will place greater focus on research and consumer insights. Midwest Dairy will work to identify the greatest opportunities for sales growth by focusing on what consumers want and need from dairy. That information can help partners increase dairy sales and innovation.
  • Creating Dairy Checkoff "advocates": Midwest Dairy will provide tools to share dairy’s story and the value of checkoff promotion by continuing to work with farmers, processors and others in the industry.
  • Developing farm and community leaders for dairy: The goal is helping to build dairy leaders who can "effectively and confidently share their story with consumers."

Midwest Dairy represents 7,000 dairy families across the Midwest, where, through the checkoff, dairy producers invest 15 cents for every 100 pounds of milk they sell. Midwest Dairy receives 10 cents of this mandatory funding for regional programs. The other 5 cents goes to the National Dairy Board to fund national programs conducted by Dairy Management Inc.

Midwest Dairy — its 10-state region consisting of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma — doesn’t represent specific brands or dairy cooperatives. Nor does its farmer-funded programs participate in regulatory activities or influence government policy.

Instead, the organization says it works with retailers and consumers, supports school nutrition, invests in research, provides opportunities to young dairy leaders and shares its insights to develop products that meet consumers’ needs.

Pandemic activities

The dairy industry did its best to hold up during the pandemic, Pelzer said.

"Our dairy farmers leaders, as well as dairy leaders in our supply chain, united early in the pandemic to make sure that milk that was being produced got to market. That's been a really important part of the work that we've done," she said.

Pelzer said the dairy industry donated large amounts of milk to food banks — donations that arrived before the U.S. Department of Agriculture bought milk and gave it to food banks.

"I'm proud to work for a group of individuals who are not only innovate, but also care so much for the communities they serve," she said.