At the turn of the century, delivering milk to customer doorsteps was the norm. Then, as grocery stores and modern appliances took off, milk was mostly purchased at retailers. But today, as consumers demand to know more than they ever did before about what's in their food, how it was made, and where it's been, the milk man is not only back, he's thriving.
"The number one driver for our business is the quality of our products," said Bruce Bedford, Vice President of Marketing Analytics and Consumer Insights for Oberweis Dairy. Oberweis is a family-run dairy based on the far western edge of Chicago that operates 40 dairy stores, with two more planned to open later this year and more planned to open in 2018. Oberweis also delivers milk in glass bottles to homes across the Midwest. "Our customers love that our milk is 48 hours farm to table," Bedford said.
Food industry leaders from more than 60 countries gathered at the Global Food Safety Institute's conference in Houston in February. The next GFSI food safety conference will be held in Tokyo in March.
48 hours? Yes. And today's increasingly selective customers, on the hunt for local products, are drinking it up.
Every day, Oberweis trucks pick up milk from family farms and deliver it to the company's bottling plant near its home office. There, the milk is tested and pasteurized. It is then bottled immediately in glass bottles and loaded on trucks for home delivery, so families often receive their milk 48 hours or less after it comes from the cow.
“Our competitive strengths are taste, sourcing and our use of marketing analytics. Our business model is resonating with today’s consumer,” Bedford said. “We also take food safety as seriously as we take taste. It takes just one bad story, one bad situation to negatively affect the brand. Our customers are very vocal, if they don’t like something, they let us know.”
Bedford said the company’s promise of taste and transparency has been so successful that Oberweis is expanding home delivery to Raleigh, North Carolina and Richmond, Virginia this summer.
“Our home delivery segment is thriving due to our obsession with producing and delivering the best tasting dairy products, as well as our use of SAS analytics to support our strategic marketing efforts. We take a very analytical approach to identifying consumer needs and targeting our offerings to consumers most likely to purchase our products. SAS has been an enormously valuable partner in helping us achieve build an analytical marketing engine that mirrors the quality of the products we produce,” Bedford said.
The Oberweis Dairy story is just one example of the escalating supply chain pressures on manufacturers and retailers when it comes to food quality and safety. Today's food industry is more local than ever before but also more global. The industry is dealing with an unprecedented number of food safety outbreaks and recalls, which erode consumer trust and threaten brand reputations. While it's virtually impossible for companies to eliminate all food safety issues — especially considering the variable of in-home preparation — there are three pressing challenges that must be managed: stricter consumer demands regarding quality and sourcing (transparency), changing rules on food handling (traceability) and an increasingly digital supply chain (technology).