NFU dairy adviser Sophie James considers the promotion of British dairy as we begin the new year. She writes:
"Here we are in the first week of January and as with every other year, it’s all about health – how many of you have a New Year’s resolution to be healthier? A quick search online or scan through some of the papers and the options are bewildering. Should I drink coffee before exercising, home cook all of my meals or start one of the many bizarrely named diets? I know how healthy milk is for me, I grew up on a dairy farm, but now with so many products and ideas to compete with it’s important to ensure that that positive message gets across to consumers.
Plant based alternatives are a growing market and concerns have been shared with us about how they are promoted. There’s plenty of legislation to protect consumers from being misled, but to prove that consumers are being misled about what they are buying is a different matter. The recent case in Belgium is a good example of how drawn out this process can be. In 2012, a major brand was challenged in Belgium over its use of the term ‘yoghurt’ to describe a plant based alternative. The challenge was dismissed by the Commercial Court, however in 2015 it was upheld by the Belgian Court of Appeal. Following the Court of Appeal’s decision, the brand now uses the phrase ‘alternative to yoghurt’ or similar to describe its product.
Consumers should not be misled, that’s a given and if you see examples of misleading labelling we are always happy to hear from you. However, I do think we should focus on positive rather than negative messaging and the new collaboration between AHDB Dairy and Dairy UK on domestic dairy market development is a welcome step forward. Positive messaging isn’t just about liquid milk though. Over half of our production goes into other products and markets. We therefore need to promote British dairy and dairy farming more generally.
The third pillar of the NFU Dairy Board strategy is promoting the best of British, at home and abroad. The focus is broad and includes lobbying of and working with other organisations to promote British dairy. This week we are meeting with Dairy UK and on the agenda is how we can support each other with promotional events this year. Last year our own promotional campaigns such as #HappyCows were well received and had a wide reach. We also have a meeting coming up with the School and Nursery Milk Alliance and were pleased with the outcome of meetings with Defra prior to Christmas on school milk. Finally, it is important to remember that people often need to see a message multiple times, in multiple formats before they begin changing their ideas or behaviour, so every different part of the NFU’s promotional and lobbying work is important."