Irish dairy campaign packs protein punch in hard times for sector

By Eliot Beer

- Last updated on GMT

'We’re up against it [...] and unless we disrupt and advertise in a way that makes consumers think about dairy differently, we’re going to lose consumption,' says Irish National Dairy Council. ©iStock/tycoon751
'We’re up against it [...] and unless we disrupt and advertise in a way that makes consumers think about dairy differently, we’re going to lose consumption,' says Irish National Dairy Council. ©iStock/tycoon751

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Ireland’s National Dairy Council has put protein at the heart of its new Powered by Dairy marketing campaign, targeting sports enthusiasts and supporting value-added products such as protein milk.

The new campaign, which launched yesterday and will run for the next few years, has two key messages, according to Zoe Kavanagh, chief executive of the NDC.

The first message is: dairy is a source of protein. Because we know from research that this isn’t understood. Obviously milk is the lead product, but we also want yoghurt and cheese to be brought into people’s consideration. And message number two is that protein should be consumed throughout the day​,” said Kavanagh.

Athletes bridge nutrition gap

To bring these messages home, the NDC has partnered with the Irish Institute of Sports (IIS) and sports nutrition expert Sharon Madigan, along with rugby union stars and brothers Rob and Dave Kearney.

Along with outdoor and radio advertising, the organisation has produced a number of online videos featuring the Kearneys and other Irish athletes focusing on the role dairy products can play in providing protein.

Kavanagh said this approach came out of research that showed that the 650,000-odd sports enthusiasts in Ireland had gaps in their nutrition knowledge.

While they’re active and focused on nutrition, we found in research that their knowledge of where dairy is relevant for them within their active healthy lifestyles is limited. They all understood calcium is good for bones, but the comprehension around protein and muscle was low.

We found from the work we did that the big opportunity for both males and females was that once they understood the role of protein for muscles and how that fitted with their exercise regime, and then the fact that dairy – primarily the dairy products in their fridge – was a good source of protein​,” she added.

This approach is designed to support dairy in general, and the fast-growing field of protein-supplemented milk products in particular, said Kavanagh.

There would be a number of our members who are developing brands in this space. For example, the Glanbia organisation, when you look at their brands presented to the consumer in-store, protein milk is something they launched last year.

It is really growing compared to standard milk – the growth in Ireland is coming from value-added milk, and within that protein milk is really growing. So much so that what you see is a brand leads out with innovation, and then retailers, through their own brands, copy it and has it in stores. Protein milk and protein yoghurt is becoming a big trend, and the value-added in commodity dairy is what’s driving the growth​,” she continued.

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Supplements to supplement campaign

While dairy-based supplements such as whey protein are not the primary focus of the Powered by Dairy campaign, Kavanagh said they are part of it, particularly as sports ‘triers’ become ‘doers’ and eventually ‘devotees’.

Some of those people who are much more advanced than just your weekend warrior, they need more than 1 gram of protein per kilo of bodyweight, and that’s where supplements play a really positive role​,” she said.

But our starting point in this campaign is around the fridge. We do intend to engage with gym instructors and fitness instructors around this campaign, starting with the fridge, and then building into where supplements can play an appropriate role​,” added Kavanagh.

She acknowledged this campaign represented a significant departure for dairy in Ireland, which has traditionally focused on calcium and grass-fed production, but was blunt about the challenge dairy faces.

We’re up against it. I think there’s a lot dairy substitute products coming onto the marketplace, and unless we disrupt and advertise in a way that makes consumers think about dairy differently, we’re going to lose consumption, significant consumption, over the next five to 10 years.

Dairy has a massive opportunity, but there’s a tendency not to invest the marketing dollars – not just in Ireland, but around the world. If we are to unlock the opportunity, we have to commit the marketing dollars, and educate the consumer – because the consumer is terribly confused as to who can be trusted, and what is a good natural source of nutrition​,” concluded Kavanagh.

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