The U.S. dairy industry needs to be “obsessed” with the consumer, according to a panel discussion participant at the International Dairy Food Association’s Dairy Forum. Patty Stroup, senior vice president and chief procurement officer at Nestle and CEO of Nestrade S.A., says knowing what the customer wants today and what they will want in the future is the backbone of any healthy market. She says factors like sustainable production, greenhouse gas reductions, healthy aging and package sizes are all weighing on the dairy consumer’s mind. Worldwide, nutrition continues to be the main driver.

The World Health Organization says 1.5 million people die each year from iron or vitamin A deficiencies, two ingredients abundant in dairy products. Dairy producers and workers within the production and product industries can benefit from understanding the habits and culture of target consumers. And Stroup says not to get too hung up on plant-based milk alternatives, saying they are neither friend nor foe.

Read more on insights from the International Dairy Foods Association’s Dairy Forum here.