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  • Karen Buch, RDN, LDN

Harness the Power of Protein on #NationalMilkDay!

Today is #NationalMilkDay, commemorating the day when milk started being delivered in sterilized glass bottles way back in 1878. In today's growing marketplace, a wide variety of cow's milk is available for sale including whole, 1%, 2% and skim, organic, homogenized, pasteurized, flavored, evaporated, condensed, dry milk powder and more. All good reasons to remember to thank dairy farmers who work tirelessly to supply us with milk every day! Below are some quick tips for grocery retail dietitians who wish to harness the power of the protein found naturally in milk.

Harness the Power of Protein

You may remember the 1980’s nutrition-focused ad campaign: “Milk. It does a body good.” Cow’s milk earned its reputation as a nutritious beverage because it delivers nine essential nutrients including 8 grams of high-quality protein. In fact, milk is the leading food source of three out of the four “nutrients of concern” (calcium, vitamin D, potassium and fiber) identified by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans as lacking in the typical American diet. Why then are sales of this nutritional powerhouse declining and what can retail dietitians do to help? A Closer Look Whole milk is selling at bargain prices that we haven’t seen since 2011. The October 2015 gallon average was $3.34, down from a peak of $3.86 in December 2014. In the year prior, unit sales of whole milk rose 3 percent, while the larger category of skim milk tumbled by 5 percent. What does this mean? From my perspective, parents may be succeeding in getting their kids to drink milk between the ages of one and two (when whole milk is recommended for growth and development) but failing to transition youngsters to drinking primarily reduced-fat milk (skim and one percent) when beverage options expand in early childhood. Convenient & Flavorful Sales of gallon sizes of white milk, while still the most popular, are declining overall. The gallon jug may just be too large for many baby boomer and millennial households. Sales of flavored milk, however, are on the rise. It retains all of the aforementioned nutrient benefits of milk and may represent the best opportunity to drive consumer interest in the category. The milk industry is responding by introducing smaller, portable containers of milk in unique and seasonal flavors beyond traditional chocolate and strawberry. Innovations that meet consumer demand for convenience, flavor appeal and “clean” natural ingredients appear to have the best outlook to compete in the flooded beverage market. Protein-Packed & Satisfying Nutrition experts encourage consumption of 20 to 30 grams of protein per meal to curb hunger and preserve lean muscle. Are most consumers aware that milk supplies protein? Surprisingly, the answer is no. Just 29 percent of consumers know protein is naturally found in milk and only 25 percent are familiar with whey protein. This is a major opportunity for consumer education. Research shows when targeted consumers receive a protein message, demand for milk at breakfast increases 20 to 25 percent. What can Retail Dietitians do? There are a number of ways retail dietitians can make an impact. First, call out “good source of protein” at the shelf and on qualifying dairy packages. Next, use store tours, in-store and community events and broader consumer communications to identify milk as a go-to choice for natural protein and suggest healthful food pairings. Highlight available research supporting chocolate milk as a recovery drink for athletes and avid exercisers. And finally, customize various industry campaigns to boost consumer awareness and drive milk sales at your retail location. Several examples follow. Milk Life This national initiative, launched in 2014 by the Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP) and funded by America’s milk processors, spotlights everyday moments of accomplishment, achievement and enjoyment to reinforce milk’s many nutritional benefits. A campaign guide is available to help retailers customize the program and extend its impact. Key messages, available in English and Spanish, include: Start your day with the power of protein and Protein at breakfast can help you stay fuller longer. See social media #MilkLife. To learn more, call 1800-945-MILK or visit and look for info on their new, 2016 initiative called My Morning Protein.

Great American Milk Drive Realizing that milk is desperately needed but seldom donated to food banks, National Dairy Council partnered with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and Feeding America to launch this nationwide, multi-year program to inspire people to donate milk to hungry families. It provides an opportunity for retailers to address the epidemic of food insecurity while shining a spotlight on milk’s vital nutrient contributions. Shoppers can buy milk at their local store and donate it to their local food pantry. Resources are available to assist with customized check-out programs. The movement is also active on social media via #MilkDrive.

An abridged version of this article first appeared in the January 2016 edition of Progressive Grocer magazine, for which the author was compensated by Stagnito Media. Thoughts and opinions are the author's own.



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