The Northeast Dairy Business Innovation Center (NE-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 NE-DBIC projects focus on strategies dairy farmers or processors can use when talking to the public about dairy which help improve the perception of dairy and increase product consumption:
- The Dairy Experience Forum hosted by New England Dairy will take place on July 13, 2021. This forum convenes members across the dairy supply chain from dairy farmers to processors and retailers and will provide actionable consumer insights, future forecasting, and industry thought leadership.
- 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 cataloged 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 NE-DBIC, University of Vermont, Tufts University, and internationally respected cheesemakers that will provide new research and data for the national cheesemaking industry. Contact Heather Darby at UVM Extension to learn more about this project.
Goat and sheep milk production is a small but growing segment of the New England agricultural economy. 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 NE-DBIC to do research to identify which markets are most ripe for development and expansion of regionally produced goat and sheep milk products.
Marketing and Branding
As a direct result of a recommendation from the Vermont Dairy Marketing Assessment, the NE-DBIC has implemented two projects:
- A contractor has been selected to complete a consumer study regarding consumer reception of the dairy brand identities, compile success stories of existing value-added dairy brands, and develop a toolkit to improve the marketing and brand presence of individual dairy businesses. These findings will be applicable to the regional dairy sector and beyond. The final results are expected in Summer 2022.
- Dairy Marketing & Branding Services Grant provides grant funding to value-added processors to access professional services to implement marketing tactics, brand improvements, and overall strategy. $400,000 in funds are available through a competitive application open to regional dairy processors.
Agritourism is a strong opportunity to better connect farmers, value-added processors, and consumers. The Multi-Business Dairy Agritourism Grant funds projects that support multiple farmers and processors for the development and marketing of geographically contiguous agritourism activities designed to raise awareness and consumption of dairy products. Projects funded through this program benefit multiple dairy businesses by promoting the access and sale of regionally produced milk and related products.