Partners Continue to Deliver Dairy-Centric Results

  • 4 min read May 13, 2022
  • Marilyn Hershey
  • DMI Chair

I can’t get enough of the McDonald’s McCafé line. Same with the Domino’s Specialty Pizzas. And Taco Bell’s Cinnabon Delights coffee? That’s a definite yes!

All of these items featured on the menus at some of the world’s largest and most recognized restaurant chains happened because of your dairy checkoff.

Trying to pick my favorite menu item is like trying to pick a favorite child. I love them all and for good reason. Our checkoff foodservice partners have long delivered results since the strategy was put into place by farmers and Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) leaders in 2008.

These partners epitomize the concept of innovation and driving dairy demand and doing it in a way that is collaborative with farmers and the checkoff. Simply put, dairy has long been showing up at these restaurant chains in ways consumers want it and this translates to more sales. Here is the key stat to back this up: collectively, checkoff foodservice partnerships are selling 2.2 billion more milk equivalent pounds of U.S. dairy annually compared to the start of our partnerships. Further, our partners have averaged 3 percent growth since their creation.

It’s happening in so many ways that are visible to farmers when they head to the nearest drive-thru or walk into any of the thousands of nationwide locations of these foodservice leaders. It’s so rewarding to order an item and think, “my dairy checkoff made this happen.”

I could roll through a long highlight reel but here are a few of my favorites:

  • About 90 percent of the beverages offered on McDonald’s McCafé line contain dairy, and products such as lattes are more than 70 percent milk. McDonald’s also announced a pivotal move in 2015 when it switched from using margarine to butter. These strategic shifts happened thanks to checkoff support and insights.
  •  Domino’s admittedly was a struggling pizza company and falling behind its competitors, but its partnership with DMI helped turn the tide. Domino’s began putting the focus on cheese and made it the key ingredient on innovative offerings, including its successful Specialty Pizzas line. Today, Domino’s is the No. 1 pizza company worldwide with 18,800 stores and annual sales exceeding $17.8 billion.
  • Taco Bell had a similar view of cheese. It was treated as a garnish, which translates to being a culinary afterthought. However, our checkoff food scientists showed Taco Bell how elevating cheese into a starring role translates to tastier food that drives sales and resonates with consumers, especially those in the younger age range.

One aspect of these partnerships that I have enjoyed is seeing how much these companies value farmers and our input. One of my favorite examples is the Domino’s Worldwide Rally where more than 7,000 franchise owners, corporate team members and others from around the world gather for inspiration, education and celebration. Dairy farmers have been invited to these rallies and we’ve gotten the rock star treatment with standing ovations. I’ve always felt farmers and Domino’s restaurant owners have much in common. We’re family-run business owners who are entrenched in our communities. We understand that working long days and nights and weekends are part of the job and that supply chain, labor and other issues come with the territory.

I’ll also note how excited we are to see that Russell Weiner has recently been appointed the new CEO of Domino’s. Russell has been a longtime supporter of the dairy industry and our partnership, and we look forward to continuing our work with him in his new role.

Farmers also have been invited to Taco Bell’s corporate office where we have seen the influence and talents of our onsite dairy scientists who are part of the company’s culture. And dairy farmers also have opened their doors to McDonald’s executives for farm tours so they can better understand the true source of all that dairy that moves through their 14,000 U.S. restaurants.

Our partnerships succeed because it’s about the checkoff bringing our resources to the table and partners bringing theirs, all in the name of growing sales of dairy-centric menu items. One sometimes overlooked aspect is our partners commit their budgets and resources to advertise products that contain dairy. Advertising obviously isn’t cheap, but these companies are getting the word out about menu offerings featuring dairy and it is being done at no cost to the checkoff. In fact, our partners outspend us by a 10-to-1 ratio on partnership projects!

Our partners feel like family to us, and I’ve always been proud of the fact the checkoff carefully examines the pros and cons of who we partner with. We wisely choose companies whose values align with ours and we have turned down opportunities that just haven’t felt right.

So, the next time you head into a McDonald’s, Taco Bell or Domino’s, know that your dairy checkoff’s hard work is evident on the menu you’re ordering from.

You can try to pick a favorite but if you’re like me, it won’t be easy!