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Dominos partners with dairy farmers

By Janet Kubat Willette

Date Modified: 11/21/2012 1:10 PM

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WASECA, Minn. --- A dairy farmer and a pizza delivery driver walked unannounced into a downtown Waseca business, carrying pizza, paper plates and napkins.

The confused stares quickly turned to surprised smiles as Domino's pizza delivery driver Leslie Reed announced the pizza was free in honor of National Sampling Day. She described the new handmade pan pizza's crust while dairy farmer Shannon Kuball of Waterville emphasized that the pizza has seven ounces of cheese. Reed asked that they call the store after tasting to give their opinion.

Domino's introduced the handmade pan pizzas three weeks ago, said Janet Radke, owner of the Domino's franchise in Waseca. The dough is fresh, never frozen, and is formed to the pan at the store. The pizza has four ounces of provolone, sauce and three ounces of mozzarella. It is only

available in medium size.

"We have had such a tremendous response on how good it is," Radke said. "The response is we

love, love, love the new pizza."

Reed agreed.

"I do think people are really liking it a lot," she said.

The Domino's and dairy farmer partnership is the latest in a four-year partnership between the nation's dairy producers and Domino's. Dairy checkoff dollars are spent to help Domino's and other food retailers develop products that increase their usage of dairy products. Dairy Management Inc., is involved at the national level and Midwest Dairy at the regional and local level.

The effort on Oct. 23, National Sampling Day, arose from the economic squeeze now facing dairy farmers because of the drought and high feed prices. It closely follows another period of low prices for dairy farmers, said Sherry Newell of Midwest Dairy Association.

Dairy Management Inc. asked its partners, including Domino's, for ideas on how it could connect their customers and employees more closely to dairy farmers. Domino's came back with the "Friend a Farmer" idea.

Thirteen stores nationwide, including three in Minnesota, piloted "Friend a Farmer." Kuball helped out at the Waseca store. Dairy farmers Stacy Thoeny and Jeanette Sheehan promoted at the Princeton and Burnsville stores, respectively.

Radke said the new handmade pan pizza with a crispy golden crust is three years in the making. Samples were given out across the nation from noon to 2 p.m. Oct. 23 as part of National Sampling Day. At Waseca, Tiffany Lynch and Linda Ebnet stopped in Domino's to pick up their free sample because Lynch saw in promoted online.

Kuball gave them both a sample and they gave the new pizza positive reviews. She also shared coupons for the new handmade pan pizza.

Radke said it's a great opportunity for dairy farmers and Domino's to team up and promote the new pizza. She goes through a lot of real cheese on the pizzas prepared at her store, which keeps demand strong for dairy farmers.

Kuball said the event was a positive for dairy farmers because if consumers have questions about food safety, nutrition or any of the dairy products dairy farmers provide, they can ask face-to-face.

"I think it's important for consumers to see a face with the product," Kuball said.

The Friend a Farmer program is expected to expand after a review of last week's pilot program.