NY agriculture pivots to better marketing?

Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/tuchodi/. Some rights reserved.

Tomorrow (Thursday), the New York State Agricultural Society holds its 181st (!) annual meeting in Syracuse.  The Syracuse Post-Standard has some cool historical info. about this conference, the biggest in New York agriculture.

As we've reported before, agriculture and rural communities are struggling to maintain the influence they used to have.  Still, farming is a huge economic engine for New York State.  And it's been recognized as such several times this year by Governor Cuomo.  Farms generated $4.7 billion in 2010, according to the state comptroller's office.

One thing I noticed in this year's program is that the keynote speaker is a food consumer research specialist, Larry Kaagan.  The program says one goal this year is to "consider…consumer views".

The marketing focus is interesting, considering there's been lots of hand wringing in the dairy industry the last couple years about declining demand among consumers.  Kids have long been grabbing a gatorade instead of a glass of milk.

A recent column in Forbes by author and former food marketer Hank Cardello says the dairy industry has slept on reacting to changing consumer demand, especially for on-the-go, meals-in-a-bottle products:

In their dogged focus on selling more milk, dairy companies largely overlooked these highly profitable markets, even though they had the lock on the basic ingredient for many of them. Instead, companies like General Mills (which owns Yoplait) are reaping riches from the $1.5 billion-a-year Greek yogurt craze. The $2 billion market for “meal replacements”—powered drink mixes, liquid shakes, edible bars that replace prepared meals and the like—belongs largely to Abbott and Mead-Johnson, both pharmaceutical and medical companies. CytoSport makes Muscle Milk, marketed to fitness enthusiasts to help repair muscles and recover from exercise.

The Greek yogurt phenomenon, for example, shows substantial hope for dairy in New York.

The marketing focus at Thursday's conference is also directed at the growing local food movement and how farmers can better reach markets in their region.

But I'm interested in hearing from dairy farmers and consumers alike: is milk-drinking a dying habit?  Do you think manufacturers should turn milk into "milk energy drinks", or whatever's popular at the time?



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  1. Mmmmmm, meal replacements….THAT'S what I want to eat.