Powerful Partnerships Help Move More Dairy

Jun 21, 2020
pizza hut location

Banding together in hard times has been top of mind for so many throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The quote that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” holds true that we cannot do it alone, but instead we can accomplish a lot more when we work together.

Working together toward the same goals with category-leading foodservice partners is a tactic dairy checkoff has been committed to for over a decade. By working with Domino’s, Pizza Hut, McDonald’s, Taco Bell and KFC through embedded dairy checkoff employees driving innovation, dairy sales have grown by 2.2. billion milk pounds and experience an average 3% growth rate each year (three times the average). For every dollar the checkoff invests in partnerships, partners invest more than $10 on innovation and marketing of dairy products through their own offerings to customers.

A History of Moving More Dairy

In 2004, dairy checkoff showed McDonald’s the business reasons to switch from paperboard cartons of milk to plastic resealable bottles of regular and flavored milk that fit in car cupholders. The chain has also invested over $200 million in equipment and support for their McCafé specialty beverage relaunch, with more than 90% of the drinks using dairy. Other chains have followed, moving to resealable milk bottles and specialty coffee beverage lines at no additional cost to farmers.

Since it takes about 10 pounds of milk to make one pound of cheese, it has been a no-brainer for checkoff to team up with the two largest pizza chains in the world. Back when Domino’s was using minimal cheese on pizza, checkoff reached out and asked what could be done together to move more cheese. The partnership resulted in Domino’s adding 40% more cheese on their American Legends and deep-dish pizzas. In 2018, checkoff led the improvement of Pizza Hut’s pan pizza to include 25% more cheese, delivering more than 150 million milk pounds equivalent.

Our domestic partnerships with Pizza Hut and KFC have expanded opportunities for U.S. dairy internationally. Some successes include the introduction of five new pizzas that use U.S. cheese in Pizza Hut locations throughout Asia Pacific, growing U.S. cheese sales by 30%, and product development with KFC in Latin America.

Partners Help Drives Sales and Move Product During COVID-19

When COVID-19 began taking a toll on restaurants, dairy checkoff worked with these proven partners to take actionable steps to move more dairy while giving back and through launches of dairy-focused summer promotions.

Pizza Hut joined forces to donate 500,000 pizzas to high school graduates who missed out on celebrations due to COVID-19. The promotion was announced on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” reaching nearly 45 million people. The segment also featured an Undeniably Dairy and MilkPEP co-branded commercial celebrating the essential role of dairy farmers that ran on FOX, CBS and NBC streaming TV. All 500,000 pizza coupons were claimed within 48 hours of the promotion.

Jimmy Fallon with a box of Pizza Hut pizza

In keeping this momentum, Pizza Hut also just launched a “More Cheese” promotion for a three-topping stuffed crust pizza for only $11.99. This shift adds over 45% more cheese than traditional hand-tossed pizza and is estimated to add 500,000 incremental pounds of cheese.

Another way of getting more cheese on pizza has come by way of checkoff’s work with Domino’s to drive their carryout service, since it provides more cheese volume than delivery. And with COVID-19 shifting consumer preferences around food service methods and handling, Domino’s is launching a new contactless car-side delivery in July. This gives customers a customized carryout experience where they can order, pay for and pick up their food on the Domino’s app without leaving their vehicle.

With cheese at a surplus during the pandemic, another partnership opportunity came about to help farmers. Checkoff assisted with a partnership between Papa Johns, Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) and Leprino Foods, the world’s largest mozzarella cheese maker. Papa Johns will be adding two ounces of cheese to several of its menu offerings, with DFA and Leprino covering half of the cost. Dairy checkoff will assist in marketing and advertising the efforts, which will run through August 31.

papa johns pizza deal image

Taco Bell has elevated dairy from a garnish to a hero through products like the Quesalupa. The chain recently launched their first dairy-based beverage, the Pineapple Whip Freeze, that blends pineapple with dairy-based sweet vanilla creamer.

Taco Bell's new drink

And to help feed communities during COVID-19, McDonald’s contributed more than $1.5 billion in milk, yogurt and butter offerings to the Food Donation Connection Network. Later this year there will be dairy-centric menu expansions focusing on coffee, breakfast and desserts.

Before the pandemic, during and beyond, dairy checkoff is committed to driving sales and trust for dairy products through innovative partnerships. Having trusted partners in dairy’s corner has allowed the flexibility to shift focus and move more dairy during hard times. Click here to hear more about dairy checkoff partnerships from Paul Ziemnisky, Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) retail and foodservice expert.