The Northeast Dairy Business Innovation Center (DBIC) has five objectives for supporting dairy farmer and processors to reach consumers through activities related to consumer preferences and market appeal. These projects include:
- Understanding the Consumer: Marketing and Branding
- Sensory and Microbial Research
- Market Research for Goat, Sheep and High-Attribute Milk Products
- Marketing and Branding
Understanding the Consumer: Marketing and Branding
As consumer preferences, understanding of food production, and desired means of communication shift, it is becoming increasingly more difficult for dairy farmers and processors to keep up. Two Northeast DBIC projects focus on strategies dairy farmers or processors can use when talking to the public about dairy which will help improve the perception of dairy and increase product consumption:
- Dairy Experience Forum hosted by New England Dairy
- Dairy Visioning Workshop series, hosted by Julia Shanks, author of The Farmer’s Office, and Noah Munro of Kitchen Table Consultants
Sensory and Microbial Research
Understanding consumer preferences of specialty cheeses, particularly in the rapidly evolving post-COVID-19 marketplace is an essential piece of knowledge for farmers and processors. Using a sensory testing and preference platform, the desirable traits of surface-ripened cheeses will be catalogued and linked with specific on-farm and processing practices. The combination of sensory and microbial data will lead to a better understanding of how cheese makers can better meet consumer preferences, providing information that will contribute to stronger production decision making and improved product performance. This project is a collaborative venture between the Northeast DBIC, University of Vermont, Tufts University, and internationally respected cheesemakers that will provide new research and data for the national cheesemaking industry.
Market Research for Goat, Sheep and High-Attribute Milk Products
Goat and sheep milk production is a small but growing segment of the New England agricultural economy. Currently, no data exists that identifies which markets are most ripe for development and expansion of regionally produced goat and sheep milk products. Because research is a critical piece to understanding exactly what consumers are looking for and how much of a market gap exists, Atlantic Corporation based out of Waterville, Maine, was awarded a contract through the Northeast DBIC to do this research. The results of this project will be made publicly available in 2021.
Marketing and Branding
As a direct result of a recommendation from the Vermont Dairy Marketing Assessment, the Northeast DBIC will:
- hire a contractor to complete a consumer study regarding brand reception of the multiple Vermont dairy identities, complete success stories of existing value-added dairy brands, and develop a toolkit to improve the marketing and brand presence of individual businesses. These findings will be applicable to the regional dairy sector which broadly shares a similar consumer base.
- provide grant funding to value-added processors to access professional services to implement marketing tactics, brand improvements, and overall strategy. Funds will be available through a competitive application open to regional processors.
Agritourism is a strong opportunity to better connect farmers, value-added processors, and consumers. Projects that support multiple farmers and processors will be eligible for grant funds for development and marketing of geographically contiguous agritourism activities designed to raise awareness and consumption of dairy products.