The dairy industry was met with several business challenges in the last year, including inflation and elevated commodity markets. Despite those challenges, the Land O’Lakes Dairy Foods business set itself up for a strong 2023 – retail volume is exceeding pre-pandemic levels and new product introductions are expanding into new markets.
Plus, thanks to a new marketing campaign aimed at making consumers more aware of what the Land O Lakes® brand represents, including our farmer-ownership, the overall health of the flagship Land O Lakes® brand is soaring.
Brand health is more than just a generic term to describe the general trend of a company’s products. Brand health is a metric that takes into account a company’s relevance to its consumers, awareness of that company’s mission and whether consumers can relate to that mission.
Land O’Lakes measures its Land O Lakes® brand health using three key performance indicators according to Corporate Marketing Vice President Catherine Fox:
Strength: An average of consumer ratings for the brand in uniqueness, relevance, quality and value
Affinity: A measure of familiarity and popularity
Substitutability: A measure of how easily this brand could be replaced with a competing brand
“Brand is critical when you go to a retailer and you want space on the shelf,” Fox says. “It’s meaningful to have strong brand health scores which prove to the retailer that their consumers will recognize your brand, and it will mean something if they can’t get it from that retailer.”
Brand health is measured primarily by consumer research. Land O’Lakes asks consumers to compare our products with other brands based on the criteria laid out above. Through 2022, Land O Lakes® brand health score reached its highest point in eight years.
“Brand health and brand love are so important,” Fox says. “We want consumers to mindfully choose Land O Lakes® products when making their purchase decisions. Brand messaging and the consumer affiliation with the brand are important things that make them choose our brand over others.”
Strong brand health is always important, but it plays a crucial role for a company when markets are unfavorable. Fox says the co-op faced an uphill battle throughout 2022, with production and ingredient costs rising at an incredibly fast pace, which required record pricing to cover the costs.
“We’ve been chasing the market up all year,” Fox says. “Costs just continued to accelerate faster than we could price.”
Despite that challenge, Land O’Lakes was still able to foster a love for our products and create connections with consumers that will play a significant role in rebounding from this past year. A new brand awareness campaign, Eat It Like You Own It, has played a big part in developing that consumer relationship.
During the pandemic, consumers really started thinking about how their food was being produced. Through consumer research, Land O’Lakes discovered that most consumers were unaware that we are a farmer-owned co-op and that they were more likely to support a business model that directly benefitted farmers and rural communities.
From that research, the Eat It Like You Own It campaign was developed to remind consumers that they can feel good about enjoying our dairy products because they’re supporting our farmer-owners and their communities.
“They had this appreciation for the farmers and small businesses that own and contribute to Land O’Lakes,” Fox says. “Our brand stands for farmer-owners, and we wanted to bring our brand and consumer values together. We’re standing on our own as a member-owned co-op.”
And data shows that consumers are buying into that message. Market share numbers for the business were just slightly below 2020 share numbers, which were at a record high. That shows consumers still want to buy Land O Lakes® products, even at record prices. Volume and pricing usually are inverse – when price goes up, volume goes down – but that hasn’t been the case this year.
“Our price has gone up, and our volume has gone up,” Fox says. “That never happens.”
So even though 2022 was a tight year, the Land O Lakes® brand is strong and is poised for sustained success in the coming years.
“Our mission in Dairy Foods is very tied to the farmer-owner. We’re here to ensure dairy vitality for our members and for our employees,” Fox says. “We know that consumers share our values, and that we connect with them in a different way.”