In the adapting culture that came with COVID-19, those working among all links of the food supply chain saw changes that impacted business and revenue. For Kwik Trip, this brought promising news for dairy farmers.
The series of convenience stores noted a substantial increase in dairy purchases in the past three months as more customers were stuck at home, according to John McHugh, director of corporate communications at Kwik Trip.
McHugh pointed to an interesting trend that showed a shift in consumer choices. Rather than smaller, to-go containers of milk, gallons and half gallons of milk were leaving store shelves.
“Part of that is because when people are on the go or the driving work, they grab their little container of milk, but if they’re confined at home for a couple of days or a week, they’ll buy the full gallon,” McHugh said.
Sales of butter and eggs were also on the rise, but McHugh was not sure if that could be attributed to more people cooking at home, or because of a promotion that coincided with the increase. Kwik Trip did have to put a limit on butter at one point because of how quickly it was being sold.
Comfort foods such as ice cream also ranked highly on the list. Kwik Trip makes its own ice cream by taking the cream from milk once it comes into the facility. McHugh noted the brand is continuously trying to create new varieties of the frozen treat and other dairy products to increase demand.
“As we well know, national daily dairy consumption has been going down,” McHugh said. “We certainly want to make sure that we can continue as a strong presence, especially here in Wisconsin, supporting our farmers, so anything that we can do to increase those sales, were doing that.”
Kwik Trip milk is sourced from farmers within a 75-mile radius of La Crosse. The milk is processed within 24 hours.
“That’s part of our business model,” McHugh said. “If we can get it from farm to table and the quickest manner possible, that’s good for the consumer. It’s good for the quality.”
With its own distribution fleet, stores receive a fresh shipment of products every day. Because of volume, some will receive two shipments.
Another new market for Kwik Trip milk is in local school districts. Whitehall and Arcadia schools announced a partnership establishing Kwik Trip as the official supplier of its milk.
“Some of our students really rely on food programs from the school, so when that got shut down, we wanted to make sure that our young people in Wisconsin still have nutritious meals available, specifically access to fresh dairy,” McHugh said. “That was an excellent partnership not only for our students but at the same time, for our farmers.”
McHugh acknowledged the fact that dairy farmers were forced to dump milk during the pandemic because of a lack of demand with schools, restaurants, and foodservice industries closed.
“We were able to take more of that dairy product into our facility, process that, and turn around and make it accessible to school districts,” McHugh said. He added there are other similar partnerships in the works.
To celebrate June Dairy Month, Kwik Trip will be sending out more than 270,000 coupons for milk. Most of those will be given to local food banks. In some cases, the Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association and State Farm insurance agencies in Wisconsin will make free milk coupons available for their customers.
“June was always a huge month for us in terms of donations for all those events,” McHugh said. “The more and more that people start to get removed from were their milk actually comes from, the more important those events are to educate, especially our young people, about how hard our farmers work. These are people that can’t take a vacation, or they don’t take a day off because the cows have to be milked.”
Kwik Trip stores are open but with social distancing recommendations because of COVID-19. The average person is in the store for three minutes, so McHugh asked customers to be patient and wait if there is a large number of people in a store.