Millennials are now the largest cohort of Canadians and as they age, progress in their careers and start families, their purchasing power continues to increase. Yet when it comes to food products, millennial consumers view things differently than previous generations. While millennial buying patterns are influenced by traditional factors like price, taste and convenience, the choices they make – products, brands or even support for an industry – are increasingly based on their value systems. Social considerations can trump all others; research has shown, for instance, that millennials value animal welfare and the environment more than the health benefits of a product.
How is dairy adapting to this evolution in the marketplace? What role can proAction play in helping consumers better understand how our industry’s values align with their own?
According to a recent study from Forrester in the U.S., seven out of ten millennials actively consider a company’s values when making a purchase, compared with just three out of ten baby boomers. In Canada, research by Mintel (2019) found that millennials see brands as an extension of themselves, making them more attentive to ethical and environmental actions taken by those brands. That study found that more than half of millennials (51%) and gen-Zs (52%) choose brands that reinforce the image they want to portray, compared with just 22% of baby boomers.
Why is this significant? It means that if millennials feel a category does not reflect values they espouse – like fighting climate change, for example – it can become a key factor in choosing whether to consume a product from that category.
Long before they became part of the collective consciousness, environmental protection and animal welfare were fundamental to Canadian dairy farmers’ values. But public perception has not always kept pace due to the rising spread of misinformation about dairy consumption and the production process. In order to build further support for dairy, we must ensure that dairy farmers’ commitment to a sustainable production is well understood by millennial and generation-Z consumers so that it doesn’t clash with their value system, but rather, comforts them.
DFC’s proAction program is crucial in that regard: the values of Canadian dairy farmers already align with the values of today’s consumers, and proAction provides the proof points to that effect.
“Millennials want to know what is in the food they eat and where it comes from,” says Pamela Nalewajek, Vice-President, Marketing at DFC. “They want to know that it was produced in a manner that is ethical and socially responsible, by producers that care just as much as they do about the resources utilized to produce it. proAction is crucial because it allows us to highlight our practices for consumers who are less trustful of claims, in a way that is credible and transparent.”
The robust requirements of the proAction program bolster our communication of our industry’s longstanding values. The comprehensive marketing initiatives and nutrition programs undertaken by DFC and our provincial counterparts are working to reframe dairy for today’s consumer, by countering misconceptions and highlighting the positive impacts of dairy.
DFC’s 2019 marketing campaigns featured real farmers discussing their commitments to animal care, sustainability and milk quality, and addressing consumer concerns around artificial growth hormones and antibiotics.
In 2019, DFC was recognized by Unilever, one of the world’s largest multinational companies for its commitment to sustainable dairy production. This was an acknowledgment of Canadian dairy farmers’ stewardship of our animals and the environment, and efforts to produce high-quality, safe, and nutritious food for consumers – and would not have been possible without a program like proAction.
This kind of recognition from objective, respected sources gives even further weight and credibility to our marketing and communications efforts.
The industry’s commitments also form the basis for the Blue Cow logo now featured on more than 7,600 Canadian dairy products. Awareness of the logo is at an all-time high with four out of five Canadians – nearly 20 million people – being familiar with the logo.
The Blue Cow resonates with consumers because they want to know which products are made with Canadian dairy and the logo offers them clarity. But beyond an affinity for Canadian-made product, the logo is emblematic of the dairy industry’s commitment to excellence, and it’s crucial to demonstrating the value of Canadian dairy farmers and their products to consumers. If proAction serves as our quality assurance program, the Blue Cow logo serves as the stamp of approval.