© Tetra Pak
BY GAIL BARNES
At the beginning of the year, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued Ending Inappropriate Marketing of Foods for Infants and Young Children, a guidance document urging the prohibition of the promotion and marketing of various milk products for children up to age three.
The reaction in the United States came this week when the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) urged members of the Congress to insist that the United States request a more thorough analysis of a World Health Organization (WHO) proposal seeking to discourage parents from feeding toddlers milk and certain dairy products.
“The WHO guidance document is a de facto criticism of all milk consumption by toddlers,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF. “This flies in the face of all credible, international nutrition research, and would confuse consumers across the globe.”
“The WHO guidance should be focusing on how to encourage the serving of nutrient-dense foods to provide young children and toddlers with a nutritious basis for meals and snacks,” said Connie Tipton, IDFA president and CEO. “It should not restrict the flow of important information regarding the nutritional benefits of dairy foods for young children to parents, caregivers and healthcare providers.”
In a letter sent to members of the House and Senate, both organisations want the US government to insist that the WHO revise this document to rectify the misleading suggestion that dairy is inappropriate for young children. The proposal was modified somewhat in late March, but the recent revisions still run counter to established science that highlights milk’s unique nutritional attributes.
The groups asked Congress to insist that the WHO conduct “a much more thorough analysis of the scientific basis for, and potential consequences of, this proposal before the WHO pushes forward with further action in this area,” the letter said. “Until that type of careful scrutiny and revision takes place, we urge the US to insist on the importance of placing this proposal on hold.”
If the guidance were adopted, it could have negative health effects on children worldwide. It also counters ample scientific evidence that dairy plays a significant and positive role in children’s diets, as seen in the recently updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the inclusion of dairy foods in programmes such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
Overcoming the difficulties of dairy
Historically low milk prices for farmers are leaving many small farmers struggling in the United States. When the going gets tough, farmers get going, and one result of the low milk prices and continuing decline in milk consumption has been the development of the milk equivalent of the microbrewery, namely the microdairy.
Add milk to the long list of traditional foods that are being rediscovered by millennial entrepreneurs and reintroduced in small-batch, premium-priced, high-margin form. One such company is that owned by Travis Pyykkonen. His company, 1871 Dairy, aims to process organic milk in the city, far from the dairy industry’s rural roots, and already supplies grass-fed cow’s milk to Chicago’s top restaurants.
Building on the “new-stalgia” trend, Manhattan Milk, a small distributor in New York City, is evoking the days of the milkman by delivering glass bottles of grass-fed, organic milk from dairies in the region to doorsteps as far away as Greenwich, Connecticut.
Leveraging millennials’ need to know about the origin of their food, Joe Miller, the marketing director at Trickling Springs Creamery, a small dairy in Chambersburg, PA, said one thing that accelerated his company’s growth in the last four years was a brand facelift: on its organic ice creams, labels now feature photos from six of the farms where the milk originated. On the success of that campaign, the dairy will unveil a similar redesign for its milk labels this spring.
“Customers want to learn the story behind the food to see if it’s the values they hold,” Miller said. “The more you open the door for them to see behind the scenes, the more comfortable they feel with your product.”
Food for thought ahead of the 2016 World Dairy Innovation Awards!
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2021
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