National Dairy Council CEO Zoë Kavanagh has told Agriland that her organisation is delivering value for money on behalf of the 15,000 Irish dairy farmers who support its activities by way of a voluntary levy.

“We are making a real difference in terms of highlighting the provenance, versatility and the nutritional value of Irish dairy products across the board.”

She was speaking as National Dairy Week got underway today, and said the week of promotion is an excellent example of what NDC is doing for Irish dairy farmers. “National Dairy Week makes tremendous inroads as a communication vehicle for the milk industry to consumers at large. And we want to build on this for the future.”

She went on to point out that consumption of dairy products in Ireland remains at very high levels, in an international context. “Liquid milk sales remain reasonably static. However, there is clear evidence to confirm that the consumption of both cheese and butter is increasing.

“The good news in relation to butter may come slightly out of left field for some field. However, this encouraging trend can be attributed to the growing recognition that butter is a source of natural facts in tandem with the fact that home baking has taken off since the onset of the recession.”

She continued: “The dairy has a great health- related message to communicate. The research work that has been done confirming the link between whey proteins and the enhanced health benefits these offer people at all stages of life will open up many new opportunities to grow dairy consumption.

“The fact that we can ally this to our grass based production systems represents a win:win scenario for the Irish milk sector.

When asked about the buying policies of supermarkets and their penchant for using liquid milk as a loss leader, she had a one word answer: “branding”.

“The only way to wrestle this initiative away from the supermarkets is to combine an effective branding policy with a commitment to add value,” she stressed. “There are already numerous examples of processors that are taking this approach. And it is working for them. Putting standardised milk into own label cartons is yesterday’s approach to doing business for the Irish dairy industry. The Irish dairy industry has a tremendous story to tell local consumers: our job at NDC is to tell it effectively.”