Driving demand for dairy foods through partnerships is critical for the dairy industry’s future. One dairy checkoff tactic has been working together with foodservice partners for over a decade. Partnerships with Domino’s, Pizza Hut, McDonald’s, Taco Bell and KFC are driving innovation and dairy sales. These types of partnerships have grown by 2.2 billion milk pounds and experience an average 3% growth rate each year (three times the average).
“For every dollar the checkoff invests in partnerships, partners invest more than $10 on innovation and marketing of dairy products through their menu offerings to customers,” said Marty McKinzie, Dairy MAX’s vice president of industry image and relations. “Historically, the dairy checkoff has worked with partners to extend farmer investment and return on checkoff dollars.”
In 2004, checkoff showed McDonald’s the business reasons to switch from paperboard cartons of milk to plastic resealable bottles of regular and flavored milk that fit in car cupholders. The chain has also invested over $200 million in equipment and support for their McCafé specialty beverage relaunch, with more than 90% of the drinks using dairy. Other chains have followed, moving to resealable milk bottles and specialty coffee beverage lines at no additional cost to farmers.
Checkoff’s partnership with Domino’s started in 2008, and the chain has increased its overall cheese usage by more than 58% - an average growth rate of almost 7% per year. The pizza changes are a direct result of dairy checkoff’s efforts, dating back to the “pizza turnaround” in 2009, to increase pizza sales and cheese utilization.
In 2018, checkoff led the improvement of Pizza Hut’s pan pizza to include 25% more cheese, delivering more than 150 million milk pounds equivalent. Partnership successes continue to grow new opportunities.
“Today, our domestic partnerships with Pizza Hut have expanded opportunities for U.S. dairy internationally,” stated McKinzie. “These successes include the introduction of five new pizzas that use U.S. cheese in Pizza Hut locations throughout the Asia Pacific, growing U.S. cheese sales by 30%.”
Taco Bell has elevated dairy from a garnish to a hero through products like the Quesalupa. The chain recently launched its first dairy-based beverage, the Pineapple Whip Freeze that blends pineapple with dairy-based sweet vanilla creamer.
When COVID-19 began taking a toll on restaurants, dairy checkoff worked with these proven partners to take actionable steps to move more dairy through launches of dairy-centric summer promotions. The restaurant chains also gave back in ways that showcased their commitment to helping farmers during the pandemic, showcasing the true power of partnerships.
“Banding together in hard times has been top of mind for so many throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The quote that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” holds true that we cannot do it alone, but instead, we can accomplish a lot more when we work together,” said McKinzie.
Pizza Hut joined forces to donate 500,000 pizzas to high school graduates who missed out on celebrations due to COVID-19. The promotion announced on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” reached nearly 45 million people. The segment also featured an Undeniably Dairy and MilkPEP co-branded commercial celebrating the essential role of dairy farmers that ran on FOX, CBS and NBC streaming TV. All 500,000 pizza coupons were claimed within 48 hours of the promotion.
In keeping this momentum, Pizza Hut also just launched a “More Cheese” promotion for a three-topping stuffed crust pizza for only $11.99. This shift adds over 45% more cheese than traditional hand-tossed pizza and is estimated to add 500,000 incremental pounds of cheese.
Another way of getting more cheese on pizza has come by way of checkoff’s work with Domino’s to drive their carryout service since it provides more cheese volume than delivery. And with COVID-19 shifting consumer preferences around foodservice methods and handling, Domino’s launched a new contactless car-side delivery in July. This allows a customized carryout experience where they can order, pay for and pick up their food on the Domino’s app without leaving their vehicle.
With cheese at a surplus during the pandemic, an additional partnership opportunity came about to help farmers. Checkoff assisted with a partnership between Papa Johns, Dairy Farmers of America and Leprino Foods, the world’s largest mozzarella cheese maker. Papa Johns will be adding two ounces of cheese to several of its menu offerings, with DFA and Leprino covering half of the cost.
And to help feed communities during COVID-19, McDonald’s contributed more than $1.5 billion in milk, yogurt and butter offerings to the Food Donation Connection Network. Later this year there will be dairy-centric menu expansions focusing on coffee, breakfast and desserts.
Having trusted partners in dairy’s corner has allowed the flexibility to shift focus and move more dairy during hard times. Before the pandemic, during and beyond, dairy checkoff is committed to driving sales and trust for dairy products through innovative partnerships. Learn more at DairyMAX.org.