Consumers Are Confused About Food Production And Nutrition But Trust In The Hard Work of Dairy Farmers

  • 4 min read August 27, 2018
  • Marilyn Hershey
  • DMI Chair

I recently had the opportunity to attend the Dairy Experience Forum, an event put on by the State and Region staff and board of Midwest Dairy. The two days were packed with thought provoking speakers, but the atmosphere was really set with the opening presentation.

They started their event with a consumer panel. The six panelists were kept in a green room prior to the event so they did not have an opportunity to gather an opinion before going on stage. That way, as the moderator asked them questions about their buying habits and food sources, we had the opportunity to get a more honest, unfiltered answer.

Dairy Experience Forum Consumer Panel
Photo by Trish Scorpio, Midwest Dairy.

What a fascinating and eye-opening event. Vegan, organic, gymnastic coach, dog owner, dairy-lover and dollar stretcher are all words I would use to describe the panelists.

As they answered questions and formed opinions it was obvious their backgrounds were as varied as their interests and non-interests in dairy.

A couple of them were committed to organic but they really did not have a concrete reason why, other than they were of the opinion it may be healthier, but they weren’t fully convinced. 

They were all well aware of the butter research and they had butter in their refrigerator, but the majority also had margarine in their refrigerators along with milk and alternatives. 

And when it came to pets, there were no restrictions for one consumer. She would pay anything to have the best food options for her dog. She also said that she would like more functional foods for pets that would include probiotics, omegas, and increased protein.  

None of the panelists gathered their information from one source. They all used more than one: Facebook, nutritionists, friends, bloggers, key influencers, health magazines, podcasts and fitness specialists were all mentioned as sources they look to when they are confused about food information. 

My favorite panelist was the gymnastics coach. He talked about the need for protein in his athletes’ diets and that it is easy to see when they come into practice loaded up on junk food. They do not have the energy needed to finish practice strong. He also stressed the important role animal protein has in nutrition.  

Hearing the panelists’ opinions was not always easy and it sometimes frustrated us in the audience to hear their confusion.  But it also gave me a new appreciation for our communications and insights teams at DMI.

Dairy Experience Forum Lucas Tweet

We put a lot of time and energy into studying consumers and Beth Engelmann, Chief Marketing Communications Officer at DMI has been telling us about the “conflicted health seeker” for quite a while. In fact, I thought of the insights that Beth and the DMI team have shared a lot that day during the panel. Many of the answers the panelists gave were exactly how the communications and insights teams describe consumers of today. 

One of the goals of the Undeniably Dairy campaign is to reach the conflicted consumer with information that can help answer their questions on the nutrition of dairy and the responsible production stories of dairy farmers. This consumer panel definitely reinforced that we are on the right track with the Undeniably Dairy content to help consumers feel confident in choosing dairy for themselves and their families.  And recent metrics on Undeniably Dairy shows that the content we are sharing has strong potential to move people from conflicted health-seekers to dairy lovers.

As we always say, dairy has a great story to tell. The more that we can have a conversation with consumers like those that were on the panel about why we do what we do every day and the great nutrition of dairy the more that we can hopefully help them make informed choices and become dairy lovers.

It’s worth noting that all panelists in the focus group shared a positive view of dairy farmers, noting they thought we worked hard.  Now we just need to continue to find new ways to connect with them and let them know they can feel good about the food we produce, too.  

To see more consumer take-aways from the Dairy Experience Forum, check out the infographic below. 

Midwest Dairy has also launched a new podcast, Dairy on the Air. This podcast features relevant conversations about issues and trends in the midwest dairy community. Join Midwest Dairy CEO Lucas Lentsch as he talks with dairy farmers, industry experts and others about trends and issues impacting the dairy industry.

Dairy Experience Forum Consumer Trends Sheet 1


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