The dairy industry—through its national dairy checkoff program Dairy Management Inc.—announced last week that it has partnered with Yum! Brands (which includes Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell) to develop menu items that include more dairy. “Working to get more cheese on chicken sandwiches is a great opportunity to grow sales,” Dairy Management Inc. chair Paul Rovey says. Yum! Brands CEO Greg Creed announced that “dairy-friendly” items will follow the model for Pizza Hut’s Grilled Cheese Stuffed Crust Pizza and Taco Bell’s Quesalupa, where extra cheese is used as the selling point. The United States dairy industry is in an undeniable glut, as evidenced by a recent $20 million government buyout of 11 million pounds excess cheese, and the 43 million gallons of excess milk dumped by dairy farmers into lagoons and fields in 2016. This partnership comes despite a clear customer demand for dairy-alternatives, which will drive the plant-based milk industry to a predicted $35 billion by 2024, a fact both Rovey and Creed plan to address by targeting international markets such as Asia Pacific and Latin America. In an effort to regain US consumers who have ditched dairy for health reasons, Dairy Management Inc. funded a study released last month that positioned cheese as a heart-healthy food.
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