Why Dairy Brands Need to Re-Think Packaging

dairy, cpg, grocery, milk, yogurt, butter, cows, farm
Just because all cows look similar to most people doesn’t mean dairy products should.

Starting at the top, I spend more time than is normal in grocery stores. I walk down the middle aisles of the store, stopping at random spots to just stare at different types of canned tuna. I was recently shopping for some sweetener, stevia to be exact, and I was looking at all my options. Liquid Stevia, Stevia in the Raw, Organic Stevia and then there was Truvia. I picked up the Truvia, and the packaging was a bit different. It was more of a rectangular shape than the other “square-like” package stevias. The design was simple, different shades of green on the top and a strawberry on a white background. Even though it was more expensive than the surrounding products, I bought it. The lesson: PACKAGE DESIGN IS EVERYTHING.

Product design can create breakthroughs in any category, take soap for example. Method was (and continues to be) a company going up against giants like Procter and Gamble, SC Johnson and Dial that was able to breakthrough with its unique design, making the bottle a statement piece at everyone’s sink with a focus on responsible ingredients. While the packaging was what got the product to stand out on the shelves, the environmental responsibility the soap represents is what really makes the point of differentiation. Since Method’s emergence, we have seen the larger players in this category create products to compete with Method.

Opportunities like this are still out there in grocery stores, I look specifically to the dairy section for the next breakthrough. (Now, I realize I’m about to sound like Andy Rooney, so please excuse me, but) why does every bottle of milk or container of sour cream need to have a cow and a grassy field on it? You know what message this sends to the consumer? That all milk is the same!

When it comes to dairy, all brands are treated equally.

Sometimes the cow looks like a cartoon, sometimes it’ll look like a half cow – half human. Sometimes the grassy field is a rolling one, sometimes it’s flat with a tree in the distance. Regardless of the type of cow or field on the bottle, the real question is why? Even a brand like Horizon, which owns 4.2% of the total organic product market still falls prey to this trap.

Think about the audience. For the most part, the consumers are mothers with children under the age of 18 buying the product. Is it really necessary to put a cartoon cow on your milk? Can’t we re-think what the gallon of milk looks like today?

We discovered from our own research study conducted in Q2 of 2015, 68% of Millennials purchase store brand dairy items (click here to download our study on millennial grocery shopping habits). Knowing that other generations tend to mirror the behavior of the Millennial, I’m going to make the assumption that this 68% doesn’t fluctuate much when you look at mothers older than 34.

So what does this mean? Well, when it comes to dairy, all brands are treated equally. Obviously, you’ll have your mothers that will always choose to buy organic dairy but regardless of that fact, if you are a dairy brand, why are you not doing everything you can (which right now wouldn’t take much effort) to stand out in the dairy aisle?

Another Missed Opportunity – Shamrock Farms

Take Shamrock Farms, one of the largest family-owned dairy processors in the country. They provide dairy products to most of the western United States.

A few points of differentiation Shamrock Farms have over their competitors is that they don’t use the growth hormone rBST and don’t use High Fructose Corn Syrup in their milk. But the brand really doesn’t take advantage of that. They do give small real estate on their packaging to the fact that they are rBST free but don’t take advantage of branding themselves as being “better dairy.” How do they choose to show off their unique product? They put a damn cartoon cow on the carton, just like everyone else.

Product Packaging Done Right

One brand that I think is doing it right is Noosa Yoghurt. Their packaging is very simple with black lettering and the product description is in the color associated with the specific ingredient. The container is different than most other yogurts (theirs is flatter) and it’s a clear container so you can actually see the product. This may not seem like anything groundbreaking but just do a quick Google image search for yogurt brands and you’ll see why Noosa stands out.

It’s only a matter of time before a company comes along and totally changes the way we look at dairy. If it can happen to the soap industry, it can happen to any industry.

Author: Alex Berger

I'm an analyst with over four years of experience in the dining and CPG space. I believe relevance is king and have the understanding of how to be relevant to specific audiences. Regardless of the source (web analytics, media performance, sales data, survey results, research studies) I discover and piece information together to create ideas that can live in multiple environments.