January 22, 2018

Industry Leader Sees Bright Future For Dairy

 |  By: Mike Opperman

Michael Dykes has been on the job as CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) for about a year. At the 2018 Dairy Forum he reflected on that first year and provided insights into what’s ahead.

In his first year he made it a priority to visit with as many members as possible at their place of business. He made about 58 visits in all and says he learned valuable insights from the experience.

“If we look and listen there are clues to what the future looks like,” Dykes says. “If we focus on shared interests we can make tremendous progress.” He pointed to some of the successes that have been a part of his first year at the helm.

  • Collaboration has been a key tenant of his first year. He points to collaboration with the National Milk Producers Federation to bring a united Farm Bill proposal to Congress as a key part of that collaboration. “Lawmakers called that a historic collaboration because they had not seen the two organizations work together to bring a united voice on Farm Bill policy,” Dykes says.  
  • Getting 1% flavored milk back into schools. Orders and processes are in place for kids to enjoy flavored milk in schools starting this fall
  • Legislation around natural cheese that approved the definition for this product. A bill was introduced in the House and Senate last week.
  • Nutritional facts labeling, extending the time period on labeling requirements to coincide with GMO labeling processes so that changes can be made all at once.
  • Alignment of the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance with the regulatory requirements of the Food Safety Modernization Act so all parties are on the same page.
  • Geographical Indicators protection to keep current cheese names in place. Dykes says that the successes they had in encouraging Japan to keep geographical names in place as part of their EU trade agreement is a positive sign moving forward.

Looking forward, Dykes commented on three opportunities for dairy:

  • Building consumer demand. “Consumers have a culture of choice,” Dykes says, pointing to the number of choices producers have in the marketplace, especially in the beverage category. “There are challenges and opportunities in this hyper-competitive market.” Dykes says consumers “want food that has a story,” and processors need to “think outside the jug” for opportunities to meet consumer demand.
  • Think innovation, both in product development and packaging. Dykes says the way consumers shop and eat is centered on speed and convenience, and processors need to think about innovation in terms of portion size and calorie counts, with an emphasis on protein.
  • Opening global markets. “Production will continue to outpace domestic consumption,” Dykes says. “That means we need to get to a point where 20% or more of production is exported.” With increased production, population growth and continued economic growth, “proactive U.S. trade policy is essential” Dykes says.

Taking advantage of these opportunities, Dykes says, will require collaboration, innovation and an acceptance of change. “We’re not going back to the way things used to be,” he says. He challenged those in the audience to think farther into the future to make sure the next generation of leadership is in place to continue a successful path. “What are you doing to develop the next leaders of your organization,” Dykes says. “When you quit working, do you have someone who can take the organization to a new level?”  He says having this transition mindset will help the industry continue down the path of success and help meet ongoing demand opportunities.