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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » March 29, 2012
Polska… tastes good!
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Promoting Polish Milk
March 29, 2012   
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Polish milk and dairy products have a reputation for quality around the world, but at home the consumption of milk is much lower than in many other European countries.

The booming global market for milk, especially in the first half of last year, the weakened Polish zloty and a slight increase in the consumption of dairy products except for butter helped the Polish milk processing industry last year. The Institute of Agricultural and Food Economics estimates that thanks to improved profitability of production, Polish farmers delivered around 9 billion liters of milk last year, which was 2.7 percent more than in 2010. Factors contributing to the growing production of milk included the productivity of milk cows, which improved 3.6 percent compared to 2010. According to the Polish Chamber of Milk, the average cow gives almost 5,000 kg of milk a year.

The improved situation of Polish milk and dairy producers is also attributed to increasing export opportunities, but high prices of processed milk products on global markets have played a part as well. Exports of dairy products had been rising sharply since 2004, especially liquid milk and cream. Prior to 2004, these were not exported to the EU, whereas since 2005, they have accounted for 15 percent of producers’ revenues. Sales of cheeses, powdered milk, cream, yogurt, butter and ice cream are on the rise as well, selling best in Germany followed by the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Italy.

Prices of milk and dairy products started to gradually decline in May last year, but on average, prices were 10-23 percent higher than in 2010. Preliminary estimates from the Finance Ministry show that as a result, last year’s exports of Polish dairy products were around 16 percent up on 2010 and were worth 1.3 billion euros. Similarly to 2010, the sharpest increase, 55 percent, occurred in exports of butter, and exports of whey rose 32 percent. In terms of total export volume, these products were the only ones to grow, while the volume of other exports declined, ranging from 1 percent for cheese, powdered milk and liquid milk to 5 percent for fermented products (buttermilk, yogurt, etc.).

As for negative trends that occurred last year, exports to Russia plummeted again after a good 2010. According to a report from BG¯ bank, sales to Russia dropped 34 percent to 51.1 million euros and the figure reached 96 percent for powdered dairy products. The only group of products to see increased exports were fermented milk products, whose sales rose almost five-fold to 1.4 million euros.

The future of Poland’s dairy sector will mostly depend on domestic sales. For many years, Polish dairies were confident milk and dairy products needed no marketing and promotion, because people kept buying milk and dairy anyway. However, back in the early 1990s, the market choice was not as impressive as it is today. Then, all of a sudden, dairy products from the West became a hit with Polish buyers. Neat packaging coupled with an interesting and varied selection of products quickly and elegantly became a fixture in Polish stores. According to Agnieszka Maliszewska, the head of the Polish Chamber of Milk, that was the first important warning that the Polish dairy sector could no longer stay competitive if relying solely on price and quality. Dairy producers needed to refocus and to do so fast. The first thing to deal with was the quality of the raw materials, because quality products could only be made from quality milk. Innovation came next, with new products in attractive, eye-catching packaging. Finally, marketing and commercial activities had to be stepped up to sell new products to buyers.

The Polish Chamber of Milk has recently teamed up with the Polish Federation of Cattle Breeders and Dairy Farmers to prepare a nationwide promotional campaign for milk to stimulate the consumption of milk and sales of dairy products. The three-year campaign is scheduled to begin in September this year and will cost an estimated zl.12 million. The money is to come from the Fund for the Promotion of Milk, EU funds and public funds.

According to experts from the Polish Chamber of Milk, milk in Poland still needs promoting, because Polish people drink and eat less than half the amount of milk and dairy products consumed in EU countries such as Germany and France. The average Pole drinks 197 liters of milk a year, but the consumption of milk and dairy products has been on a slow, steady rise since 2006. The trend in part results from the fact that prices of dairy products have declined in comparison to other foods (meat and fish included) and besides, consumers are more interested in nutritious, healthy products.

This year’s promotional campaign will highlight the nutritious qualities of milk and dairy products as a source of proteins, calcium, phosphor and vitamin D, all of which are crucial components of bones and teeth and thus necessary for children to grow. The main products to be promoted include milk, flavored milk, maturing cheeses and yogurt, the goal being to make milk attractive to consumers and even make dairy products “trendy” through education and play. The campaign is designed to complement other programs to promote milk which have been carried out in Polish schools already. Schools will introduce a three-year educational program addressed to children, parents and teachers. The main target groups are children aged 8-13, mothers and baby-sitters in Poland’s 20 largest cities. The project will involve a national media campaign.
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