Ontario’s dairy farmers ramp up own marketing

Dairy Farmers of Ontario is starting to build its own consumer marketing department, now that it’s retaining marketing funds collected from farmers and no longer sending tens of millions of dollars to Dairy Farmers of Canada.

What does it mean? Dairy Farmers of Ontario’s withdrawal from national marketing of milk has meant upheaval at Dairy Farmers of Canada’s marketing department. It will mean less large-scale advertising of milk, especially fluid milk, and little advertising in Ontario until Ontario’s program is up and running.

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Dairy Farmers of Ontario’s (DFO) board gave notice in June that it would no longer remit marketing funds, starting Jan. 1, 2018, to Dairy Farmers of Canada’s large marketing department, based in Montreal.

DFO asked DFC to prove return on the more than $40 million investment Ontario farmers make in consumer milk marketing.

“We were not able to obtain this information from DFC in a way that met our objectives,” DFO CEO Graham Lloyd said, adding that the board of directors has said it will not move quickly until it is sure of its future direction.

The board has appointed a group of dairy market experts and has started a search for a director of market development.

The expert group reported some recommendations in December, Lloyd said, including that DFO should support pre-competition dairy ads — meaning supporting milk product consumption in general.

There’s also a need to work directly with partners in retail and food services before promotions are created, and to develop a capital investment program to help reduce barriers to funding of programs.

The last recommendation was to continue community investment.

Programs that are likely to be continued include the milk calendar, the elementary school milk program and provincial- and community-level programs and sponsorships, Lloyd said.

Stakeholders a priority

DFO has already met with the Dairy Processors Association of Canada and the Ontario Dairy Council, he said. “We want to be their partner.

“The goal has to be with all of the programs, with some exceptions, is to increase demand for Canadian milk and dairy components,” he said, reiterating concerns the DFO board had with the national marketing programs.

Dairy farmers in the province will be out of dairy marketing to consumers for a period of time, and some farmers at the DFO annual meeting questioned whether consumers will still see the type of advertising they were used to.

“It won’t be in all fancy ads,” Lloyd said. “We will be using data for certain to identify what markets are growing. We own that data, so let’s use it.”

— John Greig is a field editor for Glacier FarmMedia based at Ailsa Craig, Ont. Follow him at @jgreig on Twitter.

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