WASHINGTON -- Following on the heels of the successful "Got Milk?" and Milk Moustache campaigns, the milk-industry's marketing think tank is looking to spread the word again, this time by promoting availability.
The Fluid Milk Strategic Thinking Initiative -- developed in 1995 and co-sponsored by the Milk Processors Education Program and Dairy Management Inc. -- has been conducting surveys of various distribution channels, with the hopes of developing new markets.
Task forces are concentrating on surveying convenience stores, vending areas, school and food-service operations, nutraceuticals and meal solutions.
One survey conducted by the 14-person vending task force concluded that vending operators give little consideration to milk when making purchases. According to the group's statistics, soft drinks accounted for about 40% of all beverages sold through vending machines, while milk only accounted for 0.1%.
The survey of vendors also revealed that dairy companies don't strive to nurture relationships with vendors as beverage companies do, and they don't provide much in the way of merchandising support and sell-through strategies.
Other issues facing the milk industry in the vending arena include the lack of new types of vending equipment, the lack of milk-product variety, containers that are not resealable, the short sell time due to expiration dates and the absence of brand identity.
The convenience-store task force used a telephone survey to determine that C-store chain buyers and owner-operators paid little attention to their dairy shelves. The task force also determined that C-stores have minimalized milk's shelf space, making more room for carbonated drinks and bottled water.
According to the National Association of Convenience Stores, milk sales, as a percentage of total sales, dropped from 3.93% in C-stores in 1993 to 3.39% in 1997 -- a 0.54 percentage point decline over the four-year period.
The C-store task-force survey concluded that waning consumer interest in milk products could be attributed to the lack of merchandising and promotional support, lack of innovative packaging and low gross margins.
From the meal-solutions task-force survey, it was found that consumers don't usually purchase beverages with their meals, but drink the six to 10 beverage options they already have at home -- which include soda, juices, milk and dry-mix beverages. They also found that consumers only drink milk with certain meals and feel that they must drink it immediately.
The schools and food-service task force and the nutraceuticals task force are in the process of running similar surveys and will release their results upon completion.