As Midwest Dairy wraps up the first year under our strategic plan, it has been exciting to evaluate how, under the guidance of our new vision and mission, we have been able to bring dairy to life and give consumers an excellent dairy experience in many creative ways to help build trust and sales throughout our region on behalf of dairy farm families.

Whether it’s connecting influential bloggers, thought leaders and dairy farmers over a delicious dairy-themed dinner, sharing insights with retail partners to help them maximize sales in their dairy aisle or leading research at the Midwest Dairy Foods Research Center to provide innovative solutions to industry challenges, it’s exciting to see our work is having impact.

Nationally, our work with McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Domino’s and Taco Bell is driving increased dairy sales. Internationally, our support of the U.S. Dairy Export Council’s Next 5 Percent initiative has resulted in record-breaking exports of U.S. dairy products. At the same time, we have joined more than 300 organizations in the Undeniably Dairy campaign, which connects consumers more closely with dairy farmer stories and is changing minds.

Looking ahead, I am confident checkoff-led programs will continue to produce results that will drive sales locally, nationally and internationally.

Lucas Lentsch is chief executive officer of St. Paul, Minn.-based Midwest Dairy, which works on behalf of 7,000 dairy farm families across a 10-state region that includes Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma.