May 20, 2016

There’s Gold in California’s Milk Seal

 |  By: Catherine Merlo

If you’re seeing more of the “Real California Milk” seal this year, consider yourself part of a bigger plan.

The seal’s greater presence on dairy products and in advertising is the No. 1 goal of the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) in 2016, according to CEO John Talbot.

Speaking at the Golden State Dairy Management Conference March 10, Talbot said the seal is one of the California dairy industry’s greatest assets. Along with the “Real California Cheese” seal, it has appeared on 600 million units sold annually across the U.S.

But as the CMAB capitalizes on growth opportunities in the marketplace, it plans to retire the cheese seal.

“It will make us more efficient to focus on one message,” said Talbot. “It gets us back to our core: milk.”

The CMAB, one of the nation’s largest commodity boards, believes the Real California Milk seal taps into a growing consumer demand to return to “real food.”

“It’s the direction we want to go and the message we want to give to consumers,” Talbot said.

 That “Return to Real” message will be “the heart and soul of our new campaign,” he added.

As part of its $16 million television campaign, the CMAB has four ads running nationally. It’s also expanding the “Real California Milk” seal on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.

In addition, the CMAB is promoting California’s “real milk, real food” image through public relations efforts. Perhaps none has had greater visibility than its appearance in the 2016 Tournament of Roses parade on New Year’s Day. CMAB’s “Adventures in Real Food” float was awarded the Tournament Special Trophy honoring “exceptional merit in multiple classifications.” Broadcast internationally, the parade was seen by 21 million viewers, with another 70 million impressions through press coverage and social media, Talbot said.

Jan. 1 also marked the national TV debut of the CMAB’s 90-second “The Real California” ad, which was broadcast during the parade. Focusing on the return to real food, the ad showcased actual California dairy families as well as the values behind the milk seal and the “Return to Real” campaign.


Because the CMAB also sees strong dairy-category opportunity in foreign markets, it’s designated this year’s No. 2 goal as “invigorate international.”

Already, California’s dairy industry exports twice that of the rest of the U.S. Exports make up 30% of California’s dairy sales, with the rest divided about equally between the state itself and the remaining U.S. Accounting for 37% of the Golden State’s foreign dairy sales, Mexico is “California’s largest market and growing nicely,” Talbot said.

Southeast Asia and China follow as California’s next biggest export customers. Not only can California ship more cheaply to Asia than to Chicago, but Southeast Asian markets offer great growth potential as consumers’ incomes increase and they indulge their love of California’s image and products, said Talbot.