Episode 16 – Should Farmers Be Worried About The Dairy Case At The Grocery Store?

Tune in with our dairy farmer hosts, Indiana’s Jill Houin and California’s Erin Nutcher aka @ca_dairy_wife, as they talk with Mike Brown, Sr., category manager for Kroger, and Tim Cooley, chief operating officer for American Dairy Association North East, talk about the present state and future of the dairy case, why milk and alternatives are placed together and what to do if something doesn’t look right at your local grocery store.

To learn more about the national dairy checkoff and your local dairy checkoffs, please visit www.usdairy.com.

Dairy Farmer Hosts:

Farmer Host –Jill Houin – Indiana Dairy Farmer

Farmer Host – Erin Nutcher – California Dairy Farmer

Industry Experts:

Guest – Mike Brown, Sr. – Category Manager for Kroger

Guest – Tim Cooley, Chief Operating Officer for American Dairy Association North East

Transcript (please ignore typos – machine-generated)

Mike Brown  0:00 

We are really conscious as you can imagine a lot quality, we have very strict requirements for milk in our food plant. And part of that is exactly what you said they do buy milk 30 times a year and they expect to be good and if it’s not good, they’re gonna go buy it from somebody else. And when they buy the milk, they buy their vegetables, they may buy their laundry detergent, they buy their meats. So it’s one of those key items that availability and quality is probably the most paramount of anything that we sell because we have more repeat sales of mouth than almost any major grocery store.

Jill Houin  0:40 

Everyone and welcome to another episode of your Dairy Checkoff podcast. I am Jill Huyen, a dairy farmer from Indiana, and I’m joined by Aaron notcher, who is a dairy farmer from California. We will be the host for today’s discussion on dairy products in your grocery stores. Today we’ll be talking to Mike Brown, senior Category Manager for Kroger and Tim Cooley, as CEO of American dairy associated Association northeast as they discuss supermarket cold cases, dairy cases. Mike, tell us about yourself and what you do at Kroger. I’m the

Mike Brown  1:17 

director dairy supply chain for Kroger from the sourcing perspective. So my job is to make sure that we get all the products we need for our brands and for all of our manufacturing plants in which we have a 17 dairy plants. There’s a team of five of us that do this and we tend to work in specialties but we work and everything of course from both cheese for our CO pack plants to our 15 fluid and ice cream plants as well as products that are purchased that are in the Kroger brands. We buy finished products as well as raw products.

Jill Houin  1:51 

Tim, tell us about what you do.

Tim Cooley  1:54 

My name is Tim Cooley. I work for the American Dairy Association northeast. I’m the Chief Operating Officer. I work with our retail division. I work with our integrated marketing division, which is our public relations and all our social media digital as well as experiential marketing, which is a lot of events. And I also do our e Commerce program.

Erin Nutcher  2:13 

So I see that the checkoff is working with certain retailers. How do you start a relationship with a retailer?

Tim Cooley  2:20 

That’s a great question, I’d like to say it’s easy. But it’s 30 years of working with retailers with different brands before it came new American Dairy Association northeast, it isn’t always easy retail buyers are so very busy in their jobs and don’t always understand what we offer. So if we can’t secure meeting on our own, or at least a phone call, we work with the local processor that does have a working relationship did introduce us and allow us to explain all that we can offer them.

Jill Houin  2:46 

Do you guys work with local retailers to highlight local dairy farmers in any way? Yes,

Tim Cooley  2:52 

we do. We love doing that that aspect of it. We have a farm to table program and a local program. And the stores actually love it too, to tie themselves to the community. So we work with our IR division or industry relations, and find farmers that are happy to post their pictures and include them in their farms in either a weekly circular, or actually, in some of our retailers, we take pictures and blow them up and create signage that gets permanently placed in the dairy section. So people know where their products are coming from and feel good and secure about them.

Jill Houin  3:26 

Is there any way that a farmer can reach out and contact you if they’re interested in participating in that

Tim Cooley  3:32 

we have some that have done that. And usually it starts with us looking for them. But if a farmer would contact your local regional office, they would be able to help them do that.

Erin Nutcher  3:43 

I know just in this last year, a lot of times I’d go to the grocery store and it would be out of milk and I had a lot of consumer friends that would ask me why is my local store out of milk? Do you have an answer for that?

Tim Cooley  3:54 

It’s what’s plaguing everybody. If a local store is out of milk, it’s usually related to labor and transportation. The entire country short drivers and upon the sick are running late. There are no other options. Processors are strained for drivers, but always do the best they can to get the product delivered. And a lot of times it’s a matter of it’s coming later that day. And usually if they’re in the morning and you don’t even notice that they were close to being out a lot of retailers have added milk to coolers in their stores like some dollar stores and some other very remote locations and very challenging to deliver to geographically.

Jill Houin  4:26 

So if a farmer or someone walks into the store and really doesn’t like what they see who should they contact to share their concerns about the dairy case.

Tim Cooley  4:37 

We encourage our farmers to bring it to the stores attention first and foremost. There are many times when the product is in the backroom, some stores are not laid out for to be efficient. And the other dairy case will be up towards the front. They can only hold you know 30 gallons right so they have more product out back it just that’s not their first impulse As to check as far as the store. So please bring it to the stores attention. Usually, if there’s someone in that aisle or in the dairy category, they can help and fix that problem. If that doesn’t solve it, look for a manager or an assistant manager, the entire store that your next best option in our market, we also encourage our farmers, if they can’t resolve it and stored it, take a picture and send it to us with a day in time. And we’ll address it with our contacts. Because a lot of times things can happen to store that, say the buyer or the Category Manager or VP is not aware of, and they do not want that to happen. They just aren’t aware of it. And we bring that extra eyes and ears to the situation.

Erin Nutcher  5:35 

What do you think is the future of the dairy case because of course, there’s just a lot of things are evolving.

Tim Cooley  5:39 

That’s very exciting. As we know, a lot of things have changed and dairy hasn’t changed tremendously just added new products. For us, we know whole milk is retaining sales, while the lower fats or levels are sliding a little bit, skim and 1% are declining. And so that could be an adjustment there were home milk actually picks up some space and maybe loses it from the lower fat or gains from the lower fat items. We don’t flavored milk and valuated milk products are growing. And like I said with the lactose earlier, they should pick up space, especially products like lactose free and other health and hands. Next, when it comes to cheese, there’s expanding flavors of cheese, people want to new things, some of the jak blends are doing really well. And they like a little spice that happens in all categories. So you’ll probably see a little bit more of that in the cheese case. And otherwise, in the yogurt category multipacks of yogurt, either from simplicity to pick up or the price point, you know the use because you get a slightly better deal when you’re buying multipack. They are growing, where singles are sliding. And we know auto stocks from certain companies early in the year caused part of that we think the multipacks will continue to grow and will need more space. I know for

Erin Nutcher  6:50 

me as a dairy farmer, it’s always encouraging to see new things go into the dairy case. And as the Category Manager, how do you measure success with the dairy case,

Mike Brown  6:58 

we are really responsible for making sure there’s always quality products on stock in stores. That’s our main goal and make sure that we’re competitively priced. So we measure in a couple of ways you measuring growth of sales from the standpoint of two ways meeting projections, as well as making sure that unexpected changes in demand are met, hopefully, generally for the positive side. But also we want to make sure we don’t have an oversupply of products. So we measure we measure that way, it’s been a bit of a challenge with inflation because historically Kroger has always managed measured success by sales. Well, I’ve actually led an effort recently to say we need to spend more time looking at not only sales, but units. Because of inflation. If you’re going to get a real picture of where things are going, you got to look at units as well as total volume of value of sales. So that’s how we are evaluated this how we judge our success, we work in very close partnership with the merchandising team, as you might imagine, as well as our manufacturing plants that Kroger owns. So our job is really to just make sure that supply remains smooth and constant and meets need. And also when there’s interest in developing new products, we play a key role in finding someone who can either make those for us, or who could supply the ingredients for you to make it ourselves.

Jill Houin  8:12 

I love that you’re finding new ways to do things. And that’s amazing. What are the biggest changes that you have seen in the dairy case?

Mike Brown  8:23 

Well, in recent times, if you go back to 2020, the beginning of COVID what the result was incredible surge in demand. And that has waned somewhat, although demand still remains good. But it’s interesting what has continued to remain strong in the case of Kroger. It’s definitely full fat products including butter, we have seen continue market share of our milk sales go to full flat home health as well as butter. On the two side is we’re seeing a bit of a dip right now I think part of is just cause quite honestly for consumers are starting to see again volume and sales is down. Total sales are still up. But the other part that we see is that what we would call the specialty milks and particularly in two areas for Kroger because we are seeing continuing growth of lactose free milk and milk products, a lot of interest from our consumer base on those products. I think a lot of them have discovered they can enjoy dairy in ways they didn’t realize that they could which is a great thing. And we combine that generally those products are extended shelf life. They’re packaged with a 90 days or or so shelf life which is great for consumers like that. But we also now have a fresh project on Mount going on for lactose free in Southern California and it’s been off to a good start. And the other area is what we call indulgent melts which I call them chocolate milkshakes that are melted in a bottle. They’re very intelligent and very rich. And we seem to have good growth in that area as well. And just simply cream. People must be drinking half and half the sale We’ve gone so strong, we’ve actually outsource all of our half and half septic courts, because we simply ran out of room because there’s overall demand for green products. So we have actually a co op partner now making those fours for the entire United States. And demand continues to be very, very strong.

Tim Cooley  10:16 

That was a big article that was just in some of the trade magazines that you’re doing. That’s fabulous with that type of milk. So big opportunity.

Mike Brown  10:23 

Yeah, we, we think there’s more to come. We’re trying, we’re working to invest for the future. So we can meet those future demands for those long shelf life products,

Tim Cooley  10:32 

especially in the in the flavored products, like you talked about chocolate milk, that’s a large, fast growing like 25 30% in the subject package.

Mike Brown  10:41 

And we are certainly seeing that. And we have a partner that packs that for us as well. And, and we’ve all been pleasantly surprised, as a growth continued, you always wonder, are they going to plateau, but they’ve been very strong. And they’re really, really good products. In fact, some of those products, we got some help from VMI in developing them. And they’re particularly very loyal demand from our, from our very, very many, many customers, they do like those products. And so their repeat buys, which is great, because you know, something doesn’t they’re fairly expensive. But people like them. It’s an indulgence.

Jill Houin  11:15 

Oh, my son drinks so many and I am so glad that you’re working with DMI to help cultivate that and continue to grow area.

Mike Brown  11:23 

They’ve been a great help to us.

Erin Nutcher  11:25 

No question about it. It’s always nice to have the dairy farmer when you have of course, the research that’s been going on in the dairy industry finally, meats, what actually goes in the store? But I know, for me as a dairy farmer, I get kind of frustrated. So you know, I have dairy alternatives in the cold case, are companies are they actually paying for placement in there? Or how does that work?

Mike Brown  11:43 

Well, they can. There’s lots of ways you can get on the shelf, there certainly payments. But probably just as much there is consumer poll, we can’t pretend that there isn’t a demand for those products. What I think most frustrating to me is you look at the nutritional profile of those products. And it’s just simply not there. The thing that’s been rewarding to me is to see and whether it’s a septic milk and we also do a septic conventional now, in quarts and pints nationally, all of our ports and pints in our stores are septic. And we also see great demand for those products as well. Customers want that convenience, that ability to know they’re going to buy something that is going to be good is going to keep and although they don’t necessarily understand the science behind the subject and extended shelf life milk, like the idea that it stays fresh, on the nut side, continue to seems like it’s a fad of the year. Of course, right now it’s old before that it was of course all one for many years. And in some areas, just like we’re seeing now with the plant based meat products, demand is slowing a bit. I had a comment the other day from a dairy farmer who said, you know, thank us for all that we do for dairy, who made the comment that you know, if you go to the cereal aisle, you’ll see a septic plant milk, but you won’t see a septic melt while we sell it. That’s not where we place it. Maybe that’s where we need to put it so people see more of it or put it into places. So there’s a lot of things we need to do but the plant stuff, we can’t ignore it. We’re a grocery store, we have to serve the needs of our customers. I think one thing is an industry we need to continue to focus on and I know we make a strong effort is understanding the nutritional benefits. Everything’s into carbon credits and carbon use these days. And when you look at the amount of nutrition you get out of a two quarts of almond milk because not a whole lot, but the amount of energy it takes to make

Tim Cooley  13:32 

it we know that 50% of households now purchase dairy alternatives. But we also know that 73% of those households are also buying regular dairy milk. So if somebody in their houses probably has a lactose issue in like 40% of the Americans have a lactose issue of some type. But we also know that year to date, plant based beverages are down 2% And that lactose milk has grown 6% this year and is almost doubled last six years. It’s now over 7% of all milk consumed. And as more brands local as well as national continue to introduce those what we call value added milk products, which is lactose free and anything helped enhanced. It encourages the consumer to try new things which is what we need it and it’s wonderful.

Mike Brown  14:19 

That’s always a good thing in my mind. I work for Kroger but I’m a dairy guy for since infancy I guess you might say and part of that is in our own experiences within Kroger is we do see fads come and go. And we really haven’t had a lot of dairy that I would call a fad and Greek yogurt is probably the best example it just sticks in people want the products and that’s always a good thing. And there’s certainly a keen interest in in a lot of those both indulgent as well as enhanced nutrition 100% dairy products. That’s exciting. I do believe that’s going to continue to be our

Tim Cooley  14:54 

future. I think the new products that you’ve seen in the dairy category are exciting, especially if there’s multiple brands have launched new lines of Goddess cheese to that point with different flavors. And that’s exciting. It’s good packaging, colorful and nutritious like you just said. So I think that helps us tremendously. I think we probably were behind, we didn’t have enough new products, enough new flavors. And I think those are all exciting, and helps the consumer, try new things.

Jill Houin  15:19 

I like how you said that a dairy farmer came up to you and talk to you about the cereal aisle and the aseptic alternatives. And I liked how you were thinking about how we can get dairy into that aisle and with the other newer aseptic brands, is that the right route for farmers if they don’t like what they see, who do they contact and Kroger to, what can we do as farmers to give you ideas, the best

Mike Brown  15:45 

thing you can do is if you’re in a store and you think of something or you have something that you want to go talk, go ask to speak to the manager or the assistant manager, whoever’s in charge and bring it up. Because those messages all fold up, their logs are kept track of and throw out even a letter, I had those forwarded to me before with ideas because Kroger was incorporated, we have what we call our corporate food technology. And they’re all of our food safety, folks. But they’re also our product development folks. And so we’re always sharing and I’m wanting to do that to I’ll see, cheese is kind of unique. And I said we should maybe think about figuring out a way to sell this we’ve actually added some kind of interesting blends recently, like a cheddar Grier, which is starting off very popular, as well as a couple other products that seem to be fitting our consumers need and that’s part of our goal to pique consumers interests, reds are by far the have been our biggest growth in the cheese bit. And yes, the bulk of it is what you would think it’d be mozzarella and some degree of course American and Mexican trade is actually our number one seller shred some of these unique ones like we have one now that we’re developing that is basically for fun. Do you just pour in your find new pilots? Or do you mix shredded and you go so you know, what can we do to to make those kinds of things going, we probably have most of the time 20 to 30, at least different dairy projects going on that are all going to make it to the shelf. But a remarkable number of them do. And some are new in the grocery business with store brands. Sometimes you copycat he’s like Ah, maybe we should make something that’s similar. But some of its original as well, like our indulgent milks, a lot of that was original, although there’s others on the product on the market now. So same with our car master milk, which is our high protein milk, which is also growing, which actually came out before fairlife, when we’re kind of proud of that, although fairlife isn’t actually been helpful with us with that product. So you know, find those niches and we find a lot of times those high protein products, particularly, you get strong consumer loyalty, they come back and back and back. And that’s, of course, what you always like to have your point

Tim Cooley  17:43 

like when a brand like fairlife comes to market, and spends heavily on advertising, bringing the bringing awareness to a category that maybe not existed before, like all the lactose free. And I think that’s good, it highlights that there is opportunity there. And you also tie it on to another cross merchandising point and sense of the shelf stable milk with this cereal, we know that cereal is down 20 30% In sales, and that’s attributed directly to some of the milk loss. But if there’s cross merging opportunities with shelf stable milk, and with the cereal, I think that’s a wonderful opportunity.

Mike Brown  18:15 

Anything that we can do in the store to spark consumers interests or idea while they’re shopping is always a good thing. It’s part of our job is to make sure they think of things that they may not have thought of, without a little encouragement from us, quite frankly, no different from having folks, tell our store manager, we ever thought about doing this, we think this might be a good idea. We are in a very, very competitive business. And we will do everything in our power to make sure we’re meeting the consumers needs. And sometimes we need to be told we don’t we get closed minded, we’re in trouble. So we try to stay very open minded.

Erin Nutcher  18:45 

I’m actually a mom of little kids. And so I actually do a lot of my grocery shopping online. And so a lot of times I actually don’t get to go in and look at the dairy aisle and I order it and it comes to my house. So how has actually ecommerce that actually affected your business model.

Mike Brown  19:00 

Ecommerce is obviously is a big part of our business model. In fact, we just opened up a new distribution company partnered with a company called Okada, which basically is a giant or full of bands, you have these little cards that move in a grid across and it basically builds orders. It’s so big for us that we’re basically now able to expand into markets where we may have had a loyal following before they all retired. For example, we have a cargo van near Tampa, Florida, one of those distribution centers, which allows us to meet a customer who may have bought Kroger in Columbus or Atlanta or Detroit, Michigan who can now get those same products locally. And we’re finding that to work well and even the milk side, I had some concerns on how it would work with milk. knew it would work fine with this African ESL because it’s a little more flexible. But even with conventional milk we saw basically orders started pallets moved to truckloads over time in those distribution centers so people are buying their fresh milk that way. The big thing is you can imagine Is container integrity you got to make sure you have things that don’t leak and things that don’t cause trouble. But for the most part, we have been pleasantly surprised fresh dairy, we knew it’d be work with cheese and butter and other products where fresh has gone well, even frozen has worked reasonably well, of course, we take extra precautions for that. And the big key is that once the orders are assembled, you deliver it as quick as you possibly can, because that’s all direct delivery. We do do some mail order delivery, but the bulk of our model is fresh delivery via the internet. And we do see a lot of growth COVID Huge growth is slowed down a bit, but the growth is huge. And I haven’t used it because part of my job is to walk in the store to see what’s there and out there. So I can’t keep track of what’s going on. But it is extremely popular and I would say families with children and retirees are probably the biggest to customers as far as fans for that system because it really helps with their lifestyle.

Tim Cooley  21:01 

Ecommerce could be a separate podcast in depth. But as an overview, dairy especially milk was behind in sales as a percentage of total sales on E commerce. Compared to the brick and mortar sales. There are about 7% behind fire as a percentage of total sales. And part of that is related to the first adaptors of E commerce grocery were younger and willing to try new things like playing alternatives and those brands have deep pockets and would spend on it to promote on these different platforms. However, in the last year and a half, DMI and many of the state and regional organizations are getting involved and are promoting our nutritional message on platforms like Instacart and with large grocers like Kroger. Additionally, DMI has worked closely with Amazon on items to offer in each region for all dairy categories. These efforts will continue and are important as ecommerce grocery was over 12% of all grocery sales, and $97 billion last year. And while it was down slightly this year, about 2% 70% of all households have bought groceries online. So they have an account set up and 95% state that they’ll continue to do so. So we have to be there as an industry to continue with our messaging. And it’s so crucial to your point that the first delivery a consumer gets that they bought either dairy or frozen is that the product arrives at the right temperature. And I believe most organizations do a real good job to make that happen. Because the first time your product shows up and your milk is warm, you’re not going to buy it again, we can’t have that we want people to buy it, you know they purchase milk 2930 times a year. So we hope that is in your basket every time.

Mike Brown  22:37 

We are really conscious as you can imagine a low quality, we have very strict requirements for milk in our food plants. And part of that is exactly what you said they do buy milk 30 times a year, and they expect it to be good. And if it’s not good, they’re gonna go buy it from somebody else. And when they buy the milk, they buy their vegetables, they may buy their laundry detergent, they buy their meats. So it’s one of those key items that availability and quality is probably the most paramount of anything that we sell. Because we have more repeat sales of melt than almost any major grocery item and store. It’s very, very key to our business.

Jill Houin  23:16 

And interesting you brought that up. So we are aware that some stores utilize milk as a lost leader is that Kroger’s approach on milk.

Mike Brown  23:31 

Generally not unless other folks push us to it. Because we don’t believe that giving something away, I’ll give you a good example. We have had years that we have lost money almost every month on milk. And it’s because of competition and this basically, for grocery store companies and you’re going to compete in the market, you’re not going to lose sales. The thing with fluid milk that is important because the price is regulated, we can’t reduce price to farmers below the regulated level because of the other rules and I think that keeps them getting even crazier, like we saw in England over the years we’ve got just absolutely out of out of hand. It does provide some stability here. You may not hear everyone in the food business. And federal orders are far from perfect, but they do form some sort of some function as far as trying to keep things a little more stable particularly in a competitive market like fluid milk.

Tim Cooley  24:24 

Right the power of the milk consumer is important that’s why you see a lot of retailers that now have the milk on the go section of property next to the registers and so many need just to pick up some bread or something quick. They also have that milk right there because a lot of people will buy it they don’t always want to walk to the back of the store although you gotta get your steps in every day gonna get count them but a little humor but absolutely so it’s beautiful to have not just regular white no to but also to have some of those flavored milks and lactose free milk up there in the in the milk to go category we appreciate that.

Mike Brown  24:57 

Yeah, we do that. It’s important. If you can say, well, we should make them walk to the back of the store, set the walk by everything. But the reality is, is what we see more often than not as people forget to pick it up. And they’re getting ready to checkout and they go oh, and we also tend to have single serve milks and we often have single serve snack cheese packages. And that cooler the idea being that pick up a book healthy snack on the way out the door, and they’ve been very successful. Everything’s always under review, but those have stayed which tells you that it’s effective because if they weren’t, they wouldn’t stay in the store. We’d make a change and we haven’t well that’s like

Erin Nutcher  25:34 

really interesting. So I know for me if I am in the store, I was looking at that case to go if I’m in the in the aisle and it’s always handy just to grab one eye. How do you as Kroger work with Dairy

Mike Brown  25:43 

Checkoff? Well, we have been a partner with DMI in checkoff. And with product development. Our indulgent milks is a good example. And they’ve been a great help to us as far as the importance in this day and age of sustainability and the importance of environmental concerns or customers have great concerns. The Innovation Center and sustainability work that’s being done has been useful for health for full participants in that I helped put together the information for the artists every spring just got done with that about three weeks ago. So we view that is really important to the part in working with DMI is they help with the forefront of research customer research trends. beyond what we can do. Kroger is a very large company in dairy is one of the very largest well fluid milks one of the very largest so the word DMI does is helpful same thing on the processor checkoff because of course in food milk, we have our own Checkoff Program as well. And they work closely with DMI and we found that to be a very, very helpful to us, again, allowed gives us access to focused information that as a company we otherwise probably would not have. So we view it as extremely valuable. We’re very appreciative of during his investment and promotion, we think it’s been very helpful. And beyond promotion, I think I’ll give what I think is the best example, butter, who would have thought that we would see the demand and desire for not only for butter, but butterfat that we do today. A lot of that is because primary research will have it done by BMI and other actually other promotional groups across the world, demystifying the butter and understanding its value and its relative benefits compared to frankly, a lot of other fats and its health benefits compared to other fats. That has had a huge effect. Kroger used to call butter margarine. sexing because they the person that manages that is the same person. And I think about four years ago, and I’ve been I’ve been kind of loud on it. And they changed it to butter and margarine because butter is by far the majority of sales on $1 basis and actually even on units. It’s grown so much and a lot of it is a research. And we say the same thing as with eggs when we got off this theory into the reality of the nutritional benefits of those kinds of products. How important they can be. And that’s been exciting to see that science morph into consumer purchases because it has been extremely helpful.

Tim Cooley  28:05 

Do you see trends in butter to be increasing over the last eight to 10 years where after it hit the bottom or hit the bottom and then continue to grow into your point like thank you the acknowledging the health benefits of butter. And it’s interesting that the others are trying to come out with dairy alternatives. Well, there already was one as in margarine.

Mike Brown  28:26 

Well, the thing is, is from what I can see Tim isn’t plant butter margarine. I mean Exactly.

Tim Cooley  28:34 

The rest is marketing and a lot of money spent on it. So in your points about DMI DMI is very helpful to us too. We’re not fortunate enough to have your organization in the five states that we cover. But we know that DMI provides us a lot of information overall and we’re glad to hear that they’re working with you.

Mike Brown  28:51 

They do and we don’t while we don’t sell products in your part of the world. We buy a lot of products from your part of the world. I’m originally from Western New York. So I can’t hardly make a trip to the grocery store without buying some of that New Yorker Vermont white cheddar that I was raised on that I love so much so it’s still an important part of our business

Tim Cooley  29:11 

in order some great products here that are continually we’ve dealt with that. People are very happy with E commerce because people that are have moved away from Western New York, maybe it was weather, but it moved away and still able to get the products that they would like.

Mike Brown  29:24 

Yeah, it’s E commerce is basically you can get pretty much anything anywhere.

Jill Houin  29:29 

That’s amazing. So coming to the end, I wanted to know is there something that you would like to say to the farmers that are listening about Kroger about what everyone’s doing in the northeast to really enhance the the excitement of dairy?

Mike Brown  29:51 

Well, I think the big thing that drove her and I was sure hope any grocery chain would we would be to thank you I mean our industry. It is a Team, we may not always agree on everything. And we have different ways we can do things and different parts of the country have different as far as manufacturing different things that they make. But we don’t none of us exist without the other. I mean, we need our customers, we need our suppliers, you need you need your milk buyers, you also need to have vendors to your farms to provide all the things that you need is truly a long, almost, I would say unique supply chain. But what I find really refreshing is I think for the most part, people do respect that the importance of the whole thing having to work, that doesn’t mean we’re all going to agree on everything. But in the end, our goal is to sell more dairy, and build more more customer base. And we have done well. I’m excited right now, although it doesn’t affect Kroger directly is seeing the export interest in us dairy, which is exciting, too, because it helps grow our production base. I think we’re in a unique place. Because I haven’t always been in the grocery business, I spent most of my life in the cheese business. We’re in a unique space now where we can really, I think, sell more dairy to the world from the US because we have good quality and good value. And I think this is a really exciting opportunity. I guess working for Kroger, I would be afraid we’re going to sell too much overseas. My view is if we don’t have a healthy producer, producer, industry, healthy processing industry, we don’t have a healthy industry. So everybody has to be able to succeed. And we all know it’s been a rough three years, but actually, for about farmers about a rough seven, six or seven years. And so it’s it’s important that everybody has to keep bottom line that works if people want to be in business. If people don’t want to make milk anymore, it’s going to hurt us. So we better make sure that we keep everybody profitable as we can. And what is the commodity business?

Tim Cooley  31:47 

Mike, you’re absolutely right from the checkoff side, we totally appreciate and respect the farmers continued efforts to creating such a healthy, nutritious and very cost effective for being so nutrient dense product. I think people sometimes forget that, that all the great vitamins and minerals that are in that product. So we also love their continued efforts on sustainability. And then telling people about that telling the world about their accomplishments. There’s so many far more farmers on social media, showing what they do and how they do it. And breaking down those barriers that we think are fabulous. So thank you for what you’re what you’re doing.

Mike Brown  32:22 

Well, thank you, we wouldn’t exist without the folks on this on this call. So we appreciate the whole industry’s effort to be successful, because we are very successful. And that’s exciting.

Erin Nutcher  32:32 

Thank you, Mike and Tim for this discussion today. It’s been interesting to hear about the retail sales of fluid milk at Kroger and through local promotions. In closing, this is Erin Thatcher and Joe Huyen hosting your Dairy Checkoff podcast. Thank you for joining us today. If you want to hear more about the various issues affecting the dairy community, subscribe to this podcast on your favorite podcast platforms including Stitcher, Spotify and iTunes or you can check out our website Dairy Checkoff. podcast.com for future episodes. Until next time, have a great day.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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