CHICAGO -- With sales of gallon milk off in c-stores—unit sales dipped more than 5% in 2017, according to Chicago-based IRI—retailers need to work harder to make more dairy subsegments a destination stop. Experts say emphasizing milk’s healthy qualities, tying in to emerging priorities related to protein, snacking, artisanal benefits and post-workout recovery, are key to the effort.
Here are three steps to get it done ...
1. A run on chocolate
With roots as a local dairy processor since 1931, Powell, Tenn.-based Weigel’s Farm Stores Inc. knows a little about marketing milk. The chain recently invested in billboard ads depicting images of runners, done to drive sales for its award-winning chocolate milk. The logic behind the campaign: Chocolate milk is viewed as a bona fide recovery drink, says Chairman Bill Weigel.
The billboards generated exposure, and price discounts sealed the deal. As a result, annualized unit sales of chocolate milk increased 5% to 10% in the chain’s 66 stores, reflecting sales of pints, quarts and half-gallons, the three packages the chain offers.
Another boon: With Weigel’s popular Basic Reward Card, customers receive a free gallon after buying 16, which increases trips.
2. Activate the core
Retailers can activate three core strategies to get consumers excited about dairy. In a tactic similar to Weigel’s approach, dairy items can be aligned with physical fitness. “Active dairy super-consumers make protein a critical diet component, spending more than double on dairy than the average dairy consumer,” says Mary Kay O’Connor, vice president of special projects for Madison, Wis.-based International Dairy Deli Bakery Association.
To leverage the category for snacking, use point-of-purchase messaging such as “Break Time” and “Refueling Station” with an array of dairy options, including yogurt, pudding and cottage cheese, bundled together at an endcap to cater to mini-meal eating trends, O’Connor says.
Also emphasize milk’s value-added aspect with buzz terms such as “lactose-free,” “flavored” and “whole milk,” she says.
3. Block, tackle and kick
Several retailers maximize dairy sales by keeping merchandising programs simple yet consistent. “We try to focus on the basics: in-stock, fresh product rotation with good shelf life and clean cooler displays,” says Angelos Lambis, director of fuel and convenience for United Express Convenience Stores, Lubbock, Texas.
On the new item front, the chain recently added protein-driven Fairlife milk and Chobani yogurt drinks “to capture our guest’s healthier lifestyle trends,” Lambis says.
Without revealing the numbers, Lambis says United Express dairy sales have climbed “mid-single digits.” A bonus: “Because our convenience locations are positioned inside our supermarket parking lots, gallon milk is competitively priced—and a top seller.”