Market research indicates that 74% of Americans love cheese, and checkoff-funded promotions help dairy producers give consumers exactly what they want: Cheese, and lots of it.

"With cheese accounting for 47% of total milk use and 41% of on-farm revenue, that is a winning combination for dairy producers," said Stacy Wilson, industry relations manager for Midwest Dairy Association, which represents dairy producers in nine Midwest states.

Per capita cheese consumption has doubled in the last 25 years and now tops 30 pounds per person. In 200O, cheese sales increased 3% over 1999. According to Wilson, ongoing retail and food service promotions, as well as research, funded by the dairy producer checkoff have helped cheese sales continue their upward trend. Some recent successes include:

--Checkoff leaders partnered with Pizza Hut to develop and promote the "Insider" pizza, which used more than a pound of cheese on each medium pizza--double the usual amount. Dairy producers invested $7,000 for market testing and menu development, and Pizza Hut contributed more than $40 million to launch the product. More than 21 million pounds of cheese were used on the Insider Pizza during the promotion period.

--A cheese retail partnership with Pace Dairy and Kroger, the United States' largest retailer, resulted in total cheese category sales increases of more than 10% for each of three promotions in 2000. The promotions included customized TV advertisements and direct mail to cheese-loving households.

--The "Savvy Snacking" publicity program provided food editors throughout the United States with media kits that included tasty cheese-intensive recipes. Other program components included a partnership with TV Guide to create the "Big Cheese Snacking Contest" and an ad in Sports Illustrated that promoted game-day cheese snacking. The contest, announced by a half-page advertorial in the magazine, asked readers to submit cheese snack recipes inspired by their favorite TV show or personality. The two ads reached more than 48 million consumers.

--As part of its ongoing "CNN - Cheese News Network" effort, the American Dairy Association provided "2001 Parties with Cheese" media kits to state and local dairy groups. The kits were extended to local media, offering tips about cheese preparation, winning snack recipes, with photos, and a football-themed fact sheet that featured ways to include cheese in Super Bowl menus.

--Recent producer-funded research efforts helped develop ways to improve product performance, flavor and storage life of domestic cheeses. For example, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research discovered an alternative aging method for Parmesan cheese that removes the cheese moisture to a proper level, while retaining more of the true Parmesan flavor. Cheese research efforts also developed new technologies to improve the melting ability of reduced-fat Mozzarella cheeses.

"Independent research by Cornell University tells us that without the checkoff in place between 1996 and 1999, annual cheese sales would have been 1.2% lower," said Wilson. "Thanks to checkoff-funded efforts, cheese sales have been, and will continue to be, a success story for dairy producers."

Midwest Dairy Association is the local planning and management organization, funded by dairy producer checkoff dollars, responsible for increasing demand for U.S.-produced dairy products on behalf of America's dairy producers. Midwest Dairy Association works closely with Dairy Management, Inc., the national dairy promotion organization, to implement dairy promotion, education and research programs nationwide. The dairy producer checkoff program funds both organizations. Dairy checkoff programs contribute more than 1.5 billion pounds in total milk consumption annually, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture reports.

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