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Utilizing university campuses to share dairy’s farm-to-table story

April 1, 2024


6 minute read

College campuses are full of Generation Z (Gen Z) students, which research shows are the least trusting consumer segment. Midwest Dairy knows a positive consumer perception of dairy leads to increased sales, making college campuses a great place to engage Gen Z shoppers. Checkoff works with various universities to share dairy’s farm-to-table story in out-of-the-box places. University athletics, classrooms, and events around campus all bring large groups of people together, allowing checkoff to shine a positive spotlight on the dairy industry. Reaching this large consumer base with a fun experience helps bring dairy to life beyond the grocery store while engaging with consumers about important topics and giving them a taste of the dairy products they love. Learn more about our university partnerships below across the 10-state region.  

Iowa State University 

Midwest Dairy partnered with Iowa State University (ISU) AfterDark to serve over 500 Iowa State students an excellent dairy experience. ISU AfterDark is a student-run organization that plans three late-night activities on campus each semester.  

Midwest Dairy was eager to offer the pop-up milk and cereal bar to engage with students. Through this activation, checkoff gave out over 500 Undeniably dairy-branded cups of nostalgic cereal and milk in under two hours. ISU students eagerly lined up at the Memorial Union to enjoy the milk and cereal bar, and many even posted their experience on social media while recruiting their peers to attend. We worked with a vendor to design an Undeniably Dairy-themed setup showcasing dairy’s role in sustainable nutrition. Their Gen Z staff provided an Undeniably Dairy experience, mixing up a fun combination of milk and cereal. In addition, Dairy Science Club volunteers engaged with the students, answering questions about responsible dairy production and refueling with dairy.  

ISU AfterDark students.

Minnesota State University – Mankato 

As part of Minnesota State University-Mankato’s school year kickoff event, Midwest Dairy held its first in-person activation for the “Reset Yourself with Dairy” Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MNSCU) campaign. This campaign is concentrated within the MNSCU system to reach the adult Gen Z audience. 

The experience paired sustainability and dairy messaging with delicious dairy recipes, including ham and pita pockets, fruit smoothies, overnight oats, and grilled cheese sandwiches. Their foodservice program prepared these recipes, and foodservice staff coordinated with Midwest Dairy on logistical support. Checkoff’s booth was designed to attract and hold students’ attention while volunteers and staff engaged them in meaningful conversations about dairy. Mini magazines, available at the booth, included further dairy messaging and the recipes for the food served. The line for the booth was often 30-50 students deep. 

Kansas State University 

Midwest Dairy staff member at K-State.
Photo credit: Twelve21 Media, 2023

Midwest Dairy partnered with Kansas State University (K-State) Bakery Science Dairy Science Clubs and Call Hall Dairy Bar to remind students that dairy is “Too Good to Forget.” During two afternoons, students enjoyed whole and 2% milk from Call Hall Dairy Bar with lactose-free milk available by request. The Bakery Science Club baked 800 chocolate chip cookies to complete the nostalgic dairy pairing. Student members of the clubs staffed the tables, encouraging peers to stop, enjoy an afternoon snack, and share how students could give back to Wildcats facing food insecurity. 

To encourage community outreach, the clubs promoted monetary donations to K-State’s food pantry, Cats’ Cupboard. Midwest Dairy created a limited quantity, color-changing cup to encourage donations for the occasion. For each minimum $1 donation to Cats’ Cupboard, students could upgrade their dunk to help others. Cats’ Cupboard received more than $100 in donations to purchase dairy products over the holiday season. In 2023, Cats’ Cupboard expanded from 800 to 8,000 square feet to a newly renovated building with increased storage capacity, including walk-in and reach-in coolers and freezers. According to Cats’ Cupboard, milk, cheese, and yogurt are frequently requested items by pantry visitors.   

South Dakota State University 

New in 2023, Midwest Dairy initiated a partnership with the South Dakota State University (SDSU) Miller Wellness Center, which hosts health-minded college students, offering them a wide variety of fitness opportunities. This parentship allowed their registered dietitian and interns to provide five dairy sampling experiences on-site during the spring semester, each focusing on a different dairy product and recipe. For example, one month focused on Greek yogurt and featured parfaits. The Wellness Center hosts over 2,000 guests daily, largely college-age students and 100-200 students typically engage with the two-hour sampling event. The partnership also included several signage opportunities throughout the building and monthly social media posts reaching almost 5,000 followers. 

In addition, Midwest Dairy consistently partners with the SDSU men’s basketball team for the annual Dairy Drive game. This year, to better engage Gen Z, Midwest Dairy partnered directly with student-athlete Charlie Easley to talk about why he refuels with chocolate milk in a pre-recorded radio interview that aired at halftime of the game and also aired on Jackrabbit All Access. He shared his message on social media, reaching close to 5,000 followers. Around 1,800 attendees at the live game were presented with nutrition and sustainability messaging. In addition, the South Dakota Dairy Ambassadors handed out ice cream coupons at the student entrance of the Dairy Drive game and had several ice cream cut-outs that students could pose for photos with as they entered the game.      

The College World Series  

For the third year, Midwest Dairy had an onsite presence in the Omaha Baseball Village venue of the Men’s College World Series. Checkoff engaged with consumers through various activities to learn and enjoy dairy foods at the Undeniably Dairy booth.  

Over 300,000 attendees from across the country make their way to Omaha, Nebraska, each June to cheer on the best of the best baseball teams during the Men’s College World Series. This large and diverse audience offers Midwest Dairy a significant opportunity to connect with people of all ages.

The Undeniably Dairy booth offered many opportunities for baseball fans to experience dairy in a fun and interactive way. Checkoff partnered with the local YMCA to draw in the Gen Z crowd by providing gaming systems allowing consumers to play esports games while fueling with dairy samples. Visitors could spin the dairy trivia wheel or drop a Plinko chip to answer dairy nutrition and sustainability questions for a prize. Attendees also enjoyed over 1,200 chocolate milk pints, 2,500 cheese sticks, and 750 lactose-free milk beverage samples. On the weekends, two very popular guests joined the booth, “Babe” and “Ruth.” The two dairy calves allowed baseball fans to interact with them and a dairy farmer to answer any questions that arose. Omaha Baseball Village shared a photo of the calves with their “Hero” for the day with their followers. Midwest Dairy also partnered with Nelson Produce Farm, who joined to hand out produce samples in the booth and promoted the event on their social platforms. Before the event, a Pure Nebraska news segment promoting the dairy experience aired to over 11,500 viewers and 36,500 Facebook followers.