Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Should You Consider Producing Flavored Milk?

By Sarah Cornelisse, Sr. Extension Associate, Dept. of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education, Penn State University

As we move into the holiday season, we traditionally see an increase in the purchases of dairy products - cheese, milk, etc.  Eggnog tends to be the popular beverage at this time of year.  However, non-eggnog drinkers may be wishing for a festive alternative.  This is where developing flavored milks may be an alternative for dairy processes to consider.

For lovers of baseball, you may have seen Missouri's Shatto Dairy capializing on the successful playoff run by the Kansas City Royals.  Shatto Dairy produced a special edition french vanilla flavored, blue-colored milk (turned just blue-colored by the time the team made it to the World Series).

Shatto Dairy isn't alone in producing flavored milk.  As consumers turn away from soft drinks and sports drinks, many are returning to milk for its nutritious properties while expressing a desire for more varied flavors beyond the normal flavor and traditional flavors of chocolate and strawberry.  We now see flavors from grape to cotton candy to black cherry to banana and blueberry.

A 2014 Mintel survey showed that 61% of respondents agreed with the statement "Flavored dairy milk is a healthy alternative to soda."  Additionally, 39% of respondents indicated that they were interested in "sophisticated" flavors for milk such as hazelnut, dark chocolate, etc..  This interest was most pronounced with the Millennial generation, with 50% indicating such interest.  As consumer age increases, the interest in flavored milk decreased, with only 12% of those aged 69 and above interested in flavored milk.

For dairies that already bottle milk, flavored milk is something that they may want to consider as a way of drawing in younger consumers interested in a healthy, but flavorful, drink.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Farm Financial Management Course kicks off in Slippery Rock

By: Michelle Kowalewski, Penn State Extension Educator, Susquehanna County

This week Penn State Extension Educators kicked off their first session of Farm$en$e in Slippery Rock, Butler County for the 2015-16 program year.  

Farm$en$e is a four session workshop that teaches farmers how to understand financial statements such as the cash flow statement, the balance sheet, and the income statement.  Course participants will learn how to use financial records to make informed financial and production decisions.  These skills will strengthen the farm business partners.  All agricultural businesses including: Livestock, Dairy, Crops, Horticulture Operations including Orchards, Greenhouses, and Vegetable Operations can benefit from Farm$en$e. 

Farm$ense will be offered across Pennsylvania in five locations during 2015-16.  Locations and dates for the program are as follows:

Butler County (Registration Closed - Program In-Progress)
Sustainable Enterprise Accelerator
165 Elm Street, Slippery Rock
Tuesdays – November 3, 10, 17, 24
10 am – 3 pm

Adams County
Penn State Extension - Adams County
670 Old Harrisburg Road, Gettysburg
Fridays – January 9, 15, 22, 29
10 am – 3 pm

Mifflin County
Penn State Lewistown
152 E. Market Street, Lewistown
Thursdays – January 14, 21, 28, February 4
10 am – 3 pm

Lancaster County
Shady Maple Smorgasbord
Vintage 2 Meeting Room
129 Toddy Drive, East Earl
Thursdays – February 11, 18, 25, March 3
10 am – 3 pm

Bradford County
Stoll Natural Resources Center
200 Lake Road, Towanda
Thursdays – March 24, 31, April 7, 14
10 am – 3 pm

Pre-registration for the program is required online by clicking on the links above or by calling 877-489-1398.  The cost of the program is $225 per farm (limited to two individuals per farm, each additional person is $90/each).  Lunch is provided at all classes.

For participants of all four sessions who have drafted a set of financial statements for your farm this program satisfies the requirements for Pennsylvania borrowers of the USDA Farm Service Agency Borrower Training requirements for both production and financial modules.   Additionally, this program qualifies for four SmartStart credits from AgChoice Farm Credit  

For more information about Farm$en$e please contact Penn State Extension Educator Juliette Enfield at 814-563-9388 or

Thursday, November 5, 2015

"Mandatory" social media platforms for agricultural businesses

By Dr Kathy Kelley, Professor of Horticultural Marketing and Business Management, and Dana Ollendyke, Extension Associate

Through an internet survey conducted by researchers at Penn State, Rutgers, Cornell, and New York University in 2013, 1,183 participants answered questions concerning their wine purchasing and consumption attitudes and behaviors and their demographic and socioeconomic status. Panelists were screened for being at least 21 years old, residing in one of the targeted mid-Atlantic states (New York, New Jersey, or Pennsylvania), and for having purchased and drank wine at least once within the previous year.

This survey may be focused on wineries, but the data collected can be of use to many agricultural business types. Marketing is an integral part of doing business.  Using social media to inform consumers about your products and events is an excellent way to build relationships.

John Gillespie, founder and CEO of Wine Opinions, a wine research company, stated in the article "Who’s Drinking Wine? A Look at the Wine Market Council’s Latest Survey" that 66% of core wine drinkers (those who drink wine at least once a week) and 40% of marginal wine drinkers (those who drink wine less frequently than once a week) use the internet to get information about wine. The article also said that more than half of all wine drinkers are on Facebook.

Consumers who participated in our internet survey were asked to select from a provided list of social media platforms they felt were mandatory for a winery to offer.  As you can see by Figure 1, Facebook is the significant front-runner.  Over 40% of participants believed that this social media tool is "mandatory" for a winery to implement.  Other platforms like Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube were significantly less important to respondents.

Figure 1. Social media platforms that survey respondents believed were "mandatory" for a winery to implement.

More information about the survey results can be viewed in the video series "Consumer Attitudes and Behaviors Towards Wine Purchases".

To learn more about social media marketing and the survey data, please see video 5 in the series.

As an agricultural business owner, what social media platforms do you use?  Which one(s) seems to drive the most interaction with your customers?