In an exclusive interview with Supermarket Perimeter magazine, IDDBA chairman Rick Findlay said that this summer's IDDBA '19 show will feature an increased focused on dairy that hasn't been seen in previous years.

"There will be much more of a critical mass to the number of retailer participants that have dairy purchasing responsibilities," says Findlay, also the vice president of fresh merchandising for Downers Grove, Illinois-based Fresh Thyme Farmers Market. "Historically, from the supplier base, we’ve only had maybe a handful of true dairy suppliers. This year, we think it’s going to be close to 250, or even more, dairy specific suppliers showing their products."

Findlay says that IDDBA has "been attempting to steal second and keep our food on first" by inviting retailers to the show due to the increased supplier participation, while also reaching out to suppliers about the increase in retailer attendance. 

"It's worked out perfectly," Findlay says. "We’re going to give significant space to them. One of the pillars of emphasis in the What’s In Store space will be centered on dairy as well."

Findlay says conversations with dairy experts spurred the increase in dairy focus, which will include traditional dairy products as well as plant-based beverages. Those differing products serve as a point of contention that will need to be addressed head-on, Findlay says. 

"(Dairy experts) were convinced that, by definition, dairy needs to be milk that comes from a cow," Findlay says. "If you stick with that mindset, you’ll go the way of the dinosaur. If you look at a dairy department today, it’s nothing like what your parents or grandparents shopped in. There are all sorts of milk alternatives."

While some lobbying is already happening to require that almond milk and the like be called an almond drink, soy drink, etc., it hasn't happened yet.

"It might, it might not," Findlay says. "All I know is if you look at dairy, sales are down more than 30% from just several years ago and it's come at the gain of these plant-based alternatives.

"Plant-based dairy is growing exponentially, and we just want to make sure that we emphasize that in our show. One of the Ds (in IDDBA) is ‘dairy’ and we want to bring that back."

This is the first in a series of interviews with IDDBA chairman Rick Findlay leading up to IDDBA '19 in Orlando, June 2-4.