Culver’s ‘Curd to Counter’ campaign captures and captivates |

Lisa Ramatowski

Every crispy, melty cheese curd that crosses a Culver’s counter comes from a specific — and special — place. The process begins in the hills of west-central Wisconsin with daily pickups of fresh milk from family farms, delivered to cheese makers at LaGrander’s Hillside Dairy.

A Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin partnership with Culver’s this month will showcase dairy as an integral part of the restaurant chain’s menu, telling the sourcing story behind popular items. The campaign collaboration will include farmer profiles on Culvers.com as well as live social media ads and contextual activations in various locations. It’s a great example of how dairy and foodservice partnerships go beyond Proudly Wisconsin® badges. By supporting innovative marketing efforts, trust is built with consumers – and Wisconsin cheese usage increases.

“For Culver’s, we are grateful that Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin helps us both on the marketing side – featuring Proudly Wisconsin® Cheese and Proudly Wisconsin® Dairy on our menu – as well as on the farm side – highlighting how we work with dairy farmers, their farms and their quality milk,” said Alison Demmer, public relations manager at Culver’s.“We are thrilled with our partnership and look forward to working together to continue telling great agricultural stories.

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Partnerships involving Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin campaigns such as National Cheese Curd Day and National Milk Month are key to building excitement beyond the window display. Culver’s upcoming partnership uses storytelling strategies to differentiate its restaurant menu and add value to its customers.

Restaurant chefs know that their customers care about where their food comes from. Culver’s spotlights the hard-working producers whose dedication behind the scenes delivers on Wisconsin Cheese’s promise of quality. Their healthy products enhance the key ingredients of the growing restaurant chain. Culver’s currently has more than 850 restaurants in 25 states. They serve nearly 12 million pounds of fried Wisconsin curd each year across the country.

The “Curd to Counter” story is also aligned with ongoing efforts. Through its “Thank You Farmers” project, Culver’s incorporates the appreciation of Wisconsin dairy farmers into its brand. Fundraising efforts for the national organization FFA and free custard at the FFA convention, four blue barns painted with messages of gratitude and #FarmingFridays social media takeovers are some examples of current investments and sponsorships of Culver as part of the Thank You Farmers project.

The signature story “Curd to Counter” will spotlight third and fourth generation dairy farmers Tammy and Kyle who live outside of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin with their four children and a combined herd of dairy cows.

The milk collection takes place at 7 am before the children leave for school. Even the family dogs recognize LaGrander’s hitch – they often get a treat when the milk truck arrives. Tracing the chain of family businesses back to dairy farmers like Tammy and Kyle highlights the personal connections behind a great product. The incorporation of the Proudly Wisconsin® Cheese badge and Wisconsin Cheese message emphasizes quality.

When foodservice operators use Wisconsin as an adjective to describe their cheese on menus, it communicates craftsmanship as well as great flavor. Ninety percent of consumers say cheese quality affects taste, and about 90 percent of consumers say cheese quality affects their impression of a restaurant. Being able to talk about the origins of products in addition to having this recognition of quality ingredients creates a halo effect around consumers’ perception of a brand. This, in turn, helps sell more cheese.

Like the “farm-to-table” movement that emphasizes fresh local produce to create affinity between producers, restaurateurs and diners, the campaign will mobilize Culver consumers to consider the commitment demonstrated brand to the farming community. He also educates customers on the curd-making process so they understand that their favorite fried nuggets are formed using the finest quality, simple ingredients and traditional Wisconsin processes. It creates a personal connection that goes beyond food. Following the curd from the counter to the herd links a tasty treat to the livelihoods and heritage of farmers.

It’s essential to work with partners like Culver’s, who recognize that dairy farmers’ stories are worth telling. The restaurant industry uses about 60% of all the cheese produced in Wisconsin. Wisconsin dairy farmers look forward to the launch of National Dairy Month “Curds to the Counter” and the opportunity to bring greater visibility to the workers who make Wisconsin the cheese state.

Lisa Ramatowski is Director of Channel Marketing at Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin. E-mail [email protected] to contact her.

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