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Consumers Empowered with the Facts on Dairy’s Nutritional Benefits Buy and Consume More Dairy Foods

Philadelphia | February 28, 2024

Participants in a JDS Communications® study increased their purchasing and consumption of cheese, ice cream, milk, and yogurt by more than 20% after learning more about dairy nutrition

Although most Americans consume dairy and many dairy foods are rising in popularity, fluid milk consumption has seen a significant decline among US consumers since the 1960s. To reverse this trend—and ensure consumers are getting adequate amounts of dairy in their diets—the dairy sector has developed educational materials to reach consumers through informational infographics and TV and print ads, and on social media. But do these kinds of educational messages move the needle? A new studyopens in new tab/window in JDS Communicationsopens in new tab/window, published by the American Dairy Science Association and Elsevier, demonstrates that when consumers are empowered with the facts on dairy’s nutritional benefits, they buy and consume more dairy products—including cheese, ice cream, yogurt, and especially milk.

Lead investigator Stephanie Clark, PhD, who recently retired from the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Iowa State University, explained, “We set out to educate those who consume an inadequate amount of dairy (less than three servings of dairy per day, according to The Dietary Guidelines for Americans) about various topics related to dairy nutrition, test their retention of information, and if increasing their knowledge around dairy motivates purchasing and consumption of dairy products.”

Clark and the research team conducted their study in three phases: a screening survey, nominal focus groups, and a final follow-up survey with voluntary adult participants. In the first phase, a total of 4,542 adults completed the team’s 15-question screening survey.

Clark outlined, “After the initial screening survey was closed, we funneled out a group of 195 participants for the nominal focus groups based on their interest in participating, lack of any food allergies, and the fact that they were reporting consuming less than three servings of dairy per day.”

Four infographics were developed to help educate research participants about food labels and dairy concepts: nutrition facts panels, lactose maldigestion, nine essential nutrients, and prebiotics and probiotics.

During the nominal focus groups phase, facilitators administered a pre-survey to the participants, then walked them through the infographics lesson, before administering an ice cream acceptability test. Three samples of ice cream were tasted, and the facilitators explained the nutrition facts panels and ingredient statements of each, with attention given to the differences in lactose and added sugar among the samples.

Clark noted, “Unlike traditional focus groups, where data are collected from interacting panelists, our goal with the nominal format—involving limited interactions between participants—was to deliver educational information to the participants efficiently.”

Caption: Delivery of Educational Messages via Nominal Focus Groups. Panelists received one of four combinations of scripted educational messages and infographics (Credit: Stephanie Clark and Jack Myers).

After the ice cream test, participants received a post-survey and another survey one month later.

The study results show that attending the nominal focus groups had a significant and positive effect on dairy product purchasing and consumption between the pre-survey and the one-month follow-up survey.

Clark elaborated, “Average dairy product purchasing increased to 4.4 servings per week, a 26% increase. Average consumption of each dairy product also increased—23% for cheese, 20% for ice cream, 26% for yogurt, and a staggering 53% increase for milk.”

In total, overall participant dairy consumption rose to eight servings per week, or a 35% jump.

“The result for milk consumption was the stand-out in our results, with every focus group seeing milk consumption go up by at least one serving per week.”

Despite these positive results, the research team was quick to point out that participants did not reach the recommended 21 servings of dairy per week. They stressed the importance of additional research to understand the long-term impacts of education on dairy in the diet, or if improvements to the educational materials or delivery might enhance their impact.

Overall, this study demonstrates that carefully constructed educational messages on the benefits and nutritional attributes of dairy foods can positively influence consumer behavior, leading to increased purchasing and consumption of dairy foods.

Notes for editors

The article is “Dairy nutrition educational messages help increase dairy product knowledge, purchasing, and consumption,” by Jack Myers, Derek Schweiger, and Stephanie Clark ( in new tab/window). It appears in JDS Communications, volume 5, issue 1 (January/February 2024), published by the American Dairy Science Association and Elsevier.

The article is openly available at in new tab/window, and the PDF version is available at in new tab/window.

For more information contact Jess Townsend, American Dairy Science Association®, at +1 217 239 3331 or [email protected]opens in new tab/window. Journalists wishing to interview the authors should contact the corresponding author, Stephanie Clark, PhD, formerly of the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Iowa State University, at [email protected]opens in new tab/window.

About JDS Communications

JDS Communications®, an official journal of the American Dairy Science Association® (ADSA), is co-published by Elsevier and ADSA. The journal publishes narrowly focused, hypothesis-driven original research studies designed to answer a specific question on the production or processing of milk or milk products intended for human consumption. In addition to short research articles, JDS Communications publishes mini reviews—unsolicited, concise review papers. Research published in this journal is broadly divided into the production of milk from food animals (nutrition, physiology, health, genetics, and management) and processing of milk for human consumption (dairy foods). JDS Communications aims for rapid turnaround and a short time to publication. www.jdscommun.orgopens in new tab/window

About the American Dairy Science Association (ADSA®)

The American Dairy Science Association (ADSA) is an international organization of educators, scientists, and industry representatives who are committed to advancing the dairy industry and keenly aware of the vital role the dairy sciences play in fulfilling the economic, nutritive, and health requirements of the world’s population. It provides leadership in scientific and technical support to sustain and grow the global dairy industry through generation, dissemination, and exchange of information and services. Together, ADSA members have discovered new methods and technologies that have revolutionized the dairy industry.www.adsa.orgopens in new tab/window

About Elsevier

As a global leader in scientific information and analytics, Elsevier helps researchers and healthcare professionals advance science and improve health outcomes for the benefit of society. We do this by facilitating insights and critical decision-making with innovative solutions based on trusted, evidence-based content and advanced AI-enabled digital technologies.

We have supported the work of our research and healthcare communities for more than 140 years. Our 9,500 employees around the world, including 2,500 technologists, are dedicated to supporting researchers, librarians, academic leaders, funders, governments, R&D-intensive companies, doctors, nurses, future healthcare professionals and educators in their critical work. Our 2,900 scientific journals and iconic reference books include the foremost titles in their fields, including Cell Press, The Lancet and Gray’s Anatomy.

Together with the Elsevier Foundationopens in new tab/window, we work in partnership with the communities we serve to advance inclusion and diversity in science, research and healthcare in developing countries and around the world.

Elsevier is part of RELXopens in new tab/window, a global provider of information-based analytics and decision tools for professional and business customers. For more information on our work, digital solutions and content, visit



Jess Townsend

American Dairy Science Association®

+1 217 239 3331

E-mail Jess Townsend


Eileen Leahy


+1 732 238 3628

E-mail Eileen Leahy