Today I’m super excited to have to join me from UDA : Roxy Helman, Sr. Communications Manager, and Ashley Ellison, Chief Business Operations Officer (C-BOO). 

UDA is Arizona’s original dairy co-operative producing and providing a wide variety of dairy products and services to such brands as Fairlife, Kroger, Fry’s, Franklin Foods, and Shamrock Farms. They recently undertook a pretty extensive rebranding process, which we’ll definitely be digging into!

Learn more about UDA over on their website: https://www.uda.coop/
Connect with UDA on Twitter.

 

 

Contact: Mike Jones mike@resoundcreative.com

Discuss at https://www.facebook.com/azbrandcast/

The show is recorded at the Resound offices in ever-sunny Tempe, Arizona (the 48th – and best state of them all).

Show Transcript

Mike Jones:
This is the AZ Brandcast, where we explore Arizona’s brand and the brands that make Arizona. I’m Mike Jones. All right everyone, today I’m super excited to have joining us from UDA, Roxy Helman, who is the senior communications’ manager and Ashley Ellixson, who is the chief business operations officer, as I just found out is pronounced see-boo.

Ashley Ellixson:
Yes.

Mike Jones:
Over at UDA.

Roxy Helman:
Yes.

Mike Jones:
I like that. That’s super fun.

Ashley Ellixson:
Yeah.

Mike Jones:
So, for those that don’t know, UDA is Arizona’s largest and original dairy cooperative, producing and providing a wide variety of dairy products and services to brands like Fairlife, Kroger, Fry’s, Franklin Foods, Shamrock Farms, amongst many others. And they recently undertook a pretty extensive rebranding process, which we’ll definitely be digging into in a little bit. But first, Roxy and Ashley, thank you so much for coming on AZ Brandcast today. I think this has been a long time coming.

Ashley Ellixson:
Yes.

Mike Jones:
So I’m super excited.

Roxy Helman:
Yeah, we’re excited to be here.

Ashley Ellixson:
Totally.

Mike Jones:
And, just tell our audience a little bit more about UDA and what you all do.

Ashley Ellixson:
Go ahead, Roxy.

Roxy Helman:
You want me to go first?

Ashley Ellixson:
Yeah. Take it.

Roxy Helman:
All the things. So, UDA is a dairy cooperative. So we have farmer stakeholders that make up our cooperative and we take their milk and help market it throughout the world. So we sell it locally and then if we can’t sell it locally, we can dry it at our plant in Tempe and then sell it globally. And Ashley might have more.

Ashley Ellixson:
Yeah. I mean, that’s pretty much it in a nutshell.

Roxy Helman:
Yeah.

Ashley Ellixson:
Absolutely. And then, not only do we market and sell their milk, we have a service and supply division at UDA who actually supply our farmers with, whether it be paper towels or everything to the chemicals that help clean their dairies. And then of course, the service arm, which gets to go out on the farms and help any mechanical breakdowns and things like that. So, we have a couple facets of the business.

Mike Jones:
Yeah.

Ashley Ellixson:
But full service, which is also unique. I think we’re the last standing dairy full service co-op, right?

Mike Jones:
Wow.

Roxy Helman:
I think so.

Ashley Ellixson:
Yeah.

Mike Jones:
That’s really cool.

Roxy Helman:
(affirmative).

Mike Jones:
Yeah. And I like that idea that you’re serving both the end customer, creating the products from the milk, supplying grocery stores and other retailers, but you’re also on the other side servicing and providing services to your member dairy farms which is really cool.

Roxy Helman:
(affirmative).

Ashley Ellixson:
Yeah.

Mike Jones:
Kind of that two-way approach to service. That’s really cool. What are some of the ways, or obviously you say dairy, I think most people think milk, but I know you do a lot more than just milk that you might find, 2% whole milk, that kind of thing.

Ashley Ellixson:
Yeah. There, I’ll let Roxy take our local products and then.

Roxy Helman:
Our, okay. So local products locally, we have obviously milk that you buy in the grocery store as store brand. So Kroger, Safeway, Lucerne, Albertsons. Those are all bottled in Arizona and made with our milk. We have certain ice cream brands. I believe the Lucerne brand is made in Phoenix and there is Greek cream cheese, yogurt, Abbott Laboratories has nutritional beverages. I mean Daisy sour cream. There’s all kinds of things. Yeah. Just made right here.

Ashley Ellixson:
So then our manufacturing plant, when Roxy was talking about the powdered milk we make…

Mike Jones:
(affirmative).

Ashley Ellixson:
We have variety of powdered milk. So the most common that gets exported all over the world is nonfat dry milk. So basically all it does is take the water out because you don’t want to shipped water.

Mike Jones:
Yeah.

Ashley Ellixson:
Right? Essentially. So you want to ship the actual proteins and 80% of that goes globally throughout the world. Some of the other things that we’ve been able to do, and there’s a lot of R&D, believe it or not, that goes into dairy, is take out different proteins within the milk, one of those being lactose. For example, we just finished a plant last summer that is making a high grade lactose product that goes into infant formula. And we’re going through an audit right now to be able to go into pharmaceutical grade. So, things that you wouldn’t even know milk is…

Mike Jones:
Yeah.

Ashley Ellixson:
There’s all these components within milk that we’re utilizing.

Mike Jones:
Yeah.

Ashley Ellixson:
Another one is lactoferrin, another ingredient within milk, that we’re able to extract through a very highly technological process and dry and ship overseas as well. And it’s just a highly valuable product that goes in mainly to infant formula right now.

Mike Jones:
That’s really cool.

Ashley Ellixson:
Yeah.

Mike Jones:
Yeah. Tell me a little bit about the history of UDA. How have you gotten to where you are today?

Roxy Helman:
Sure. So 61, almost 62 years ago now, UDA started. But in the early 1900s to mid-1900s, most of the farmers just kind of worked on their own and sold directly to bottles or processors. And then as that kind of got a little more challenging, if a processor didn’t pick up or the trucker was having an issue, farmers were kind of left with, “What to do with our milk?”. So, they all sort of banded together and created the co-op which then kind of gave them a collective power to pool their milk and work together for the betterment of all of the industry in particular. So, it’s definitely evolved over the years, but that was kind of the start in 1960.

Mike Jones:
That’s crazy. That’s incredible to be around that long. Is that pretty common with a lot of co-ops in the United States?

Ashley Ellixson:
So the existing co-ops, most of them are…

Mike Jones:
Pretty old.

Ashley Ellixson:
…pretty old.

Roxy Helman:
(affirmative).

Ashley Ellixson:
So, there’s a handful of co-ops that just over time have kind of acquired the smaller ones. So they’ve gotten bigger.

Mike Jones:
Yeah.

Ashley Ellixson:
So the ones that are still standing have quite the longevity.

Roxy Helman:
Yeah. And I think it’s funny to think of where we’re located right now on Broadway and Hardy is basically the center of Tempe. But back in the day, it was that are the outskirts of town…

Mike Jones:
Yeah.

Ashley Ellixson:
(affirmative).

Roxy Helman:
And no one would ever move that far out and it was such a great location because it was so far away from the city and now it’s literally just mill trucks in the city.

Ashley Ellixson:
And there was a picture that Roxy, you may have already found it before 60th anniversary, but it was literally, Broadway was a dirt road and across the street was desert.

Mike Jones:
Yep.

Ashley Ellixson:
And that was 60 years ago.

Roxy Helman:
Yeah.

Mike Jones:
Yep.

Roxy Helman:
Yeah.

Mike Jones:
Yeah. I mean even, late seventies….

Ashley Ellixson:
Yeah.

Mike Jones:
…there was a big flood and the river here completely overflowed and knocked out. I think the Mill Avenue bridge I remember at the time, from stories I’ve heard, I wasn’t here, but that for a week, nobody could get from one side of the river to the other and Tempe was completely isolated from the rest of Phoenix.

Ashley Ellixson:
Wow.

Mike Jones:
And people were totally scrambling. So that’s kind of a missed opportunity if you think about it, it could have been this lake town.

Ashley Ellixson:
Yeah.

Mike Jones:
They could have, they really could have really owned that. The joke for those that don’t know is that there is a lake now in Tempe…

Roxy Helman:
Yeah.

Mike Jones:
…which is somewhat odd. It’s very manmade. The middle of the desert. It’s an odd thing. It’s super odd.

Ashley Ellixson:
It is pretty.

Mike Jones:
It is pretty, it makes for a great waterfront.

Ashley Ellixson:
Sure.

Mike Jones:
It’s very pretty, it’s great to walk around, been down there a few times, date nights with my wife, trying to figure out something to do, especially in the middle of the pandemic.

Sam:
As long as you don’t pop the dam.

Mike Jones:
Yeah. Don’t pop the dam.

Roxy Helman:
Don’t do that.

Ashley Ellixson:
I think they…

Mike Jones:
It’s a giant balloon.

Ashley Ellixson:
…they fix that though. I think it’s permanent now. It’s not a bladder.

Mike Jones:
It’s not a giant balloon. It deflated a few years ago and everyone was like, “Wait, it deflated? The dam deflated? I don’t understand.” That’s too funny. What have been some of the kind of successes and challenges to growing UDA over the years?

Roxy Helman:
Give that to Ashley.

Ashley Ellixson:
You want me to take that one?

Roxy Helman:
Please do.

Ashley Ellixson:
So, gosh, challenges to growing. Really, this is going to get into the nitty gritty, but our farmers are paid through what’s called the federal milk marketing order and that paycheck that the producers get is determined by a plethora of formulas that are determined by these different classes of milk.

Mike Jones:
(affirmative).

Ashley Ellixson:
Unfortunately, that hasn’t changed near as much as basically the cost of living has.

Mike Jones:
(affirmative).

Ashley Ellixson:
As everything else has grown, the paychecks of the farmers really haven’t seen an increase very much at all.

Mike Jones:
(affirmative).

Ashley Ellixson:
So it’s really just been the economics, probably the most expensive, arguably the most expensive depends on who you talk to in New Mexico. They might argue something different, but milking in Arizona is probably the most expensive place to make milk.

Mike Jones:
(affirmative).

Ashley Ellixson:
And that has a lot to do with the feed.

Mike Jones:
Yeah.

Ashley Ellixson:
So just, it’s been basically the ability for our farmers to continue to pass along to the next generation and to grow. And then of course, you always hear if you talk to anyone in the milk industry, that producers like to grow when prices are bad and producers like to grow when prices are good.

Mike Jones:
(affirmative).

Ashley Ellixson:
So then it’s also managing your 37 members and appeasing the growth.

Mike Jones:
Yeah.

Ashley Ellixson:
And then, do we have a place for that milk to go? Because the last thing you want to do is to dump any milk on the ground.

Mike Jones:
Yeah.

Ashley Ellixson:
And that’s why the co-op exists, to help balance the milk that can’t get sold.

Mike Jones:
(affirmative).

Ashley Ellixson:
So it’s really just been, how do you figure out and stain a growth model that makes money for our producers but then also allows for the growth of the co-op in general? So although we’re somewhat, I would argue, landlocked with our milk supply now, really the whole concept and maybe you’ll get to this in a minute, but where we’re going and moving forward to get past some of these struggles or hurdles that we’ve seen in the last, at least five years if not more.

Mike Jones:
What have you seen Roxy?

Roxy Helman:
Pretty much the same thing.

Mike Jones:
Same thing?

Roxy Helman:
Definitely. It’s kind of interesting to think of though, that it’s expensive to dairy here, but I feel especially in the wintertime, it’s the best place to dairy.

Mike Jones:
(affirmative).

Roxy Helman:
Our cows are so happy, so comfortable, it’s not freezing cold winter. I mean, they make so much milk because they are in great temperatures, great weather, it’s pretty dry for the most part.

Ashley Ellixson:
(affirmative).

Roxy Helman:
So that challenge is just interesting. Yeah.

Ashley Ellixson:
And we have the best quality of milk in the entire country.

Roxy Helman:
Yes.

Mike Jones:
Why is that?

Ashley Ellixson:
Why is that? So a lot of that has to do with how the cows are fed. So, Roxy does a really good job at this, but the nutritionist for the, every dairy has a nutritionist if not a handful of nutritionist on site that always, basically they take the components of the milk. So that has to do with how much protein, how much butter fat, which is the cream and the higher you get in those components, you know your feed rations working. And so they’re treated and they eat probably better than most of us. And that’s why the milk is the best.

Roxy Helman:
Yeah. It’s pretty impressive for each stage in their pregnancy cycle, they get a different ration of food or I guess in their milking cycle, they get a different ration of food. So, if you’re making a lot of milk, you’re going to be eating a lot more. If you’re pregnant, you’re going to be eating this amount of calories. So, it’s very specific to each stage of life for the cows and good to make milk and good milk too.

Ashley Ellixson:
(affirmative).

Mike Jones:
I think we have to address it. There’s an elephant in the room just that…

Ashley Ellixson:
(affirmative).

Roxy Helman:
Oh boy.

Mike Jones:
…people want to drink milk less than they used to.

Ashley Ellixson:
(affirmative).

Mike Jones:
All right. There’s a been a lot of competitors on the market that are alternatives to milk. How have you seen kind of that go and where have you seen opportunities to kind of maybe shift a little bit or create new products?

Roxy Helman:
There definitely is a, I would say maybe lag in innovation in the dairy space, but it feels like it’s starting to kind of pick up. There’s some new products coming out every year, but yeah the nut beverages, so-called nut beverages, are definitely, they have good marketing. Good…

Mike Jones:
Yeah.

Roxy Helman:
…decent products that people like. So it’s one of those hard things to balance, it’s like you want people to have a choice, but I want them to choose milk. But cheese and yogurt, I mean,…

Mike Jones:
Yeah.

Roxy Helman:
…those are other great ways to get your dairy and those are doing pretty good too.

Mike Jones:
Yeah. I would hope so. I mean, cheese is tasty.

Roxy Helman:
(affirmative).

Mike Jones:
Yeah. Shifting gears a little bit, talk about kind of Arizona and UDA’s involvement in Arizona. Cattle, obviously being one of the five original C’s of Arizona, feels like a big part of the connection for all of you. How has being in Arizona impacted the growth of UDA? And I mean, obviously you’re very tied to this state with your dairies and just kind of unpack that a little bit.

Ashley Ellixson:
So I’ll give it a shot. Really, I think that was the way of thinking for a long time. We’re Arizona based. We were incorporated by Arizona dairy producers, we’re Arizona, which is great and fantastic. But like you just noted, there’s only so much growth.

Mike Jones:
(affirmative).

Ashley Ellixson:
And so where do you go from here? So that’s the journey we’re on now. So we’ve just onboarded a new CEO and have redefined our strategy. And a lot of that has to do with growth and globalization and we actually just onboarded our own sales and trading team. And a lot of that has to do with marketing these powdered products I’m talking about. So you talk about, okay, you may not have as many people buying that gallon jug of milk anymore, but there are definitely markets for the ingredients and the components within milk. So our vision now is and for the next five to 10 years will be the globalization of UDA.

Ashley Ellixson:
Now what does that look like? Whether that’s through mergers, acquisitions, that’s through the supply chain logistics piece, because we just onboarded a whole logistics team.

Mike Jones:
(affirmative).

Ashley Ellixson:
For those of you keeping a pulse on what’s going on with the shipping containers and all the boats sitting in the ports. Yeah. So we’re in that business now, so that’s exciting. So we’re on a new trajectory.

Mike Jones:
(affirmative).

Ashley Ellixson:
And we understand that the milk shed here can only grow so much. So how do we grow that milk shed? And it’s going to be in other geographies.

Mike Jones:
Yep.

Ashley Ellixson:
Same with manufacturing. We were talking about at the beginning, we’re somewhat landlocked where we are in Tempe with our manufacturing facilities. So there’s definitely ideas on the table about where do we grow manufacturing. Could it be in Arizona? Absolutely. Will it be elsewhere? Probably that too.

Mike Jones:
Yeah.

Ashley Ellixson:
So, there’s a lot of exciting things going on.

Mike Jones:
That’s really cool.

Ashley Ellixson:
Yeah.

Mike Jones:
That’s really exciting. Anything to add, Roxy?

Roxy Helman:
No, I was just thinking more of, I just learned this recently that we actually make more dry dairy products on our one site…

Ashley Ellixson:
(affirmative).

Roxy Helman:
…than most co-ops make on multiple sites. So that kind of gives us a little bit of an edge to kind of pivot as needed. If we don’t need this product, we can turn it into this product instead.

Ashley Ellixson:
(affirmative).

Roxy Helman:
So, there’s definitely exciting, I don’t know…

Ashley Ellixson:
A lot of opportunity

Roxy Helman:
…exciting things happening.

Ashley Ellixson:
Yeah.

Mike Jones:
That’s really cool. Talk about UDAs brand. How would you define the brand? What makes it remarkable?

Roxy Helman:
Oh man. It’s really [crosstalk 00:16:22]

Ashley Ellixson:
So much to impact there.

Roxy Helman:
So much.

Ashley Ellixson:
So much remarkableness.

Roxy Helman:
So much.

Ashley Ellixson:
Yeah.

Roxy Helman:
I mean UDA as a whole, it’s the farmers, it’s the people. I mean, it’s kind of hard to des-, it’s almost indescribable. We’re so remarkable, but it’s been a fun ride with everyone at UDA.

Ashley Ellixson:
Yeah. I mean I think [crosstalk 00:16:49] Yeah. And I’ll just give kind of my, I’m not a marketing person whatsoever, but I think the interesting thing going through our rebranding for me was learning how to rebrand and really speak to our branding when it’s B2B type of marketing.

Ashley Ellixson:
When I get a call, I actually, this is a real story. I got a call from Senator Curry yesterday morning and she’s getting calls that they there’s no milk in the cases in a Walmart in Payson. That’s something that we don’t control because we’re at the beginning of that supply chain and it’s gone to maybe two or three others down the supply chain. So, it was just interesting for me to learn, “Okay. So we do have a brand. Who are we? What are we?” And I think through the journey we’ve gone through with resound, it’s really, I think kind of pulled that out of us all,

Roxy Helman:
(affirmative).

Mike Jones:
(affirmative).

Ashley Ellixson:
We may have started as a farmer-owned cooperative, but we’re more than just a dairy cooperative.

Ashley Ellixson:
We have a lot more to offer the city of Tempe, the state of Arizona, the dairy industry as a whole. We’re a player on the global marketplace. So, I feel like all of those pieces come together. So we’re speaking to different end users. We’re speaking to the legislature, we’re speaking to the global marketplace, we’re speaking to Arizona and consumers, whether we like it or not, we may not be just selling directly to them.

Mike Jones:
Yeah.

Ashley Ellixson:
I don’t know if I’m making any sense at all, but to Roxy’s point, there’s just so much there.

Roxy Helman:
Yeah.

Mike Jones:
It’s such a unique, a co-op is such a unique thing because you’re not just one central…

Ashley Ellixson:
(affirmative).

Mike Jones:
…organization, you’re a company built of other…

Ashley Ellixson:
Companies, yeah.

Mike Jones:
…companies and organizations. So, what was really unique about the rebrand was figuring out not just what the plant operations were doing but what the farmers believed in and what everybody believed in that was involved with this. And so, that central theme of excellence and being united in excellence, not just like, “Oh, our plant is super clean and we do really good work, but our farmers are bought into this too.”

Ashley Ellixson:
(affirmative).

Mike Jones:
And they’re providing excellence straight from the farm. And even just some of the things that we’ve already talked about here in the last 20 to 30 minutes is like, “Excellence in the feed that we’re giving our cows. We want the best milk, we want the best ingredients for our products.”

Ashley Ellixson:
Yeah.

Mike Jones:
So, just some of those themes that really just, kind of course through everything that’s involved with UDA.

Roxy Helman:
Yeah.

Mike Jones:
It’s really interesting.

Roxy Helman:
No, that’s, you did a really good job at defining all of that because you’re right.

Mike Jones:
I read your brand book every day.

Roxy Helman:
It’s like, yeah. It’s like you worked on this. Yeah. Well, and then what came to mind is quality.

Mike Jones:
Yeah.

Roxy Helman:
Right? And it, and you made a good point. It’s not only the quality and the excellence within the plan. It’s the quality of the milk, the quality of the farmers, the quality of the people like Roxy and I, and our other colleagues that are working every day to further, this endeavor.

Sam:
Yep.

Mike Jones:
Yeah, and you’re dealing with food, right? And when you’re dealing with food, you’re dealing with one of the most quality controlled products in the world, the bar is really high. You can’t get it wrong. And so I do think that there’s that aspect that’s kind of filtered through in everything that you do. That the bar needs to be set really high for everyone involved.

Roxy Helman:
Absolutely.

Mike Jones:
And so I, that definitely has come out as we’ve had a lot of conversations and done big brainstorming sessions and kind of worked with everyone to kind of figure out, okay, what is, what does UDA kind of stand for and what drives everyone?

Sam:
Yeah. I’ve been through the plant several times with Roxy and the team. And there’s just so many, I mean, if you like chrome, you need to go to the warehouse. There’s just chrome down, all over the place. But what’s interesting is you see the operation over there, it’s incredible. I mean, just so much technology, so much built over there. And I imagine it’d be very difficult to just one day say, “Hey, we’re going to do high quality stuff now. We weren’t really into that before, but we’re going to do that now.” That’s how it’s been built from the ground up. And that’s played into getting other companies to come here, to work with you guys. Other brands that also value quality, or that just plain out, plain old need quality, high quality ingredients, high quality milk. And you guys were built that way and it enabled you to attract other companies and other businesses to Arizona, which is incredible.

Roxy Helman:
Yeah.

Mike Jones:
Yeah. And I mean you guys have a high value of, within that excellence of being innovative and excellent in that innovation. I mean Roxy, you kind of alluded to it earlier. If there’s probably of all the industries out there, dairy might not be the most innovative industry all the time and you guys are definitely pushing that envelope. Some of the products you’re working on.

Ashley Ellixson:
Yeah. I would argue there’s definitely a lot of innovation. You just wouldn’t know that the little old plant over there on Broadway and Hardy has it going on.

Roxy Helman:
Yeah.

Mike Jones:
There’s a lot going on in there.

Ashley Ellixson:
Yeah.

Roxy Helman:
Absolutely.

Mike Jones:
People have no idea. That’s great. Talk to me a little bit about kind of the core values of the business and how those have driven things for you?

Roxy Helman:
Oh man. I was going to remind myself. So, I mean as always, quality of course is our highest value. Everything, all of our values lead up to quality. It’s a really big deal. And then our other values of steadfastness. So we want to, we have this long lasting business community. We give back to the city of Tempe. We give back to the state of Arizona. And integrity, super huge. I’m remembering them now.

Ashley Ellixson:
Yeah.

Roxy Helman:
So we try, in being tried and true.

Mike Jones:
This is the quiz section of the podcast.

Roxy Helman:
This is terrible. Ah, I knew I was going to remind of too. Integrity is huge. It’s not just, it’s what you do when no one’s looking. So this, that’s a great example for milk. You don’t, people don’t necessarily know what’s going on inside the plant, but what we’re doing inside the plant is making sure that our products are of the highest quality. And there’s one more.

Sam:
Is it community? Did you say community?

Roxy Helman:
I said community.

Mike Jones:
Drive.

Roxy Helman:
Drive. I’m like milky?

Mike Jones:
Sorry. Yeah. My hand motion was not helpful. I mean, it’s, we said it was always moo-ving forward.

Roxy Helman:
Yes.

Ashley Ellixson:
Moo, yeah.

Mike Jones:
It’s for the calendar.

Ashley Ellixson:
That’s the one.

Roxy Helman:
Yes. Yeah. Sorry, I totally butchered that.

Mike Jones:
Yeah. You guys have a lot of drive and that’s, it was very clear the minute we kind of stepped in the room and got everybody gathered together. And everyone’s got not only their own drive within their own roles and responsibilities, but drive to move UDA forward and really do a great job, have fun doing it.

Sam:
You guys have people that are passionate about powdered milk. Which is just incredible.

Roxy Helman:
That’s kind of fascinating.

Mike Jones:
Where else are you going to find that?

Ashley Ellixson:
Yeah.

Roxy Helman:
You never really know? And then I think, were we in the middle of the pandemic when we rebranded?

Sam:
Yep.

Roxy Helman:
I mean, I feel we were just in high gear anyways and ever, no one was stopping. So the fact that we stopped to do a branding workshop, I’m like, wait a second. What were we doing?

Ashley Ellixson:
It was actually extremely impressive that Roxy got all those people in that room.

Mike Jones:
Yeah.

Roxy Helman:
It was.

Ashley Ellixson:
Yeah.

Roxy Helman:
It’s kind of funny to think back now. I’m like, why did I schedule that?

Ashley Ellixson:
Determination.

Roxy Helman:
Yes.

Sam:
Drive.

Roxy Helman:
It’s my drive.

Mike Jones:
Drive. You were driven.

Roxy Helman:
Yes.

Sam:
Make it happen.

Mike Jones:
What’s interesting too, about the brand and the values. And Ashley, you mentioned this earlier is that you guys recently hired a new CEO. And when that happens in an organization, typically that could result in a big change culturally and all that stuff. And that, I think that has happened to some degree, but to see those values kind of just remain as the pillars of the organization, even with such a big change has been really encouraging and just really cool to see you guys just continue to go down that path.

Roxy Helman:
Yeah, definitely.

Ashley Ellixson:
Absolutely. I, I’ll say about bringing on Robert Chesler as our CEO, he’s really into empowering those who do have the vision. So I will speak maybe for him. But I think that the fact that all of us got in that room from all levels of the organization. Sat down and worked on this rebranding together. He came in and was like, “You guys are passionate about this, I’m empowering you.” And that’s the approach he’s taken.

Mike Jones:
That’s great. That’s awesome.

Roxy Helman:
He’s been awesome. It’s definitely a renewed excitement, I think.

Ashley Ellixson:
Oh yeah.

Roxy Helman:
Encouraging and just crazy.

Ashley Ellixson:
Yeah. There’s definitely an air of excitement.

Roxy Helman:
All the things.

Ashley Ellixson:
Buzzing in the office. Yeah.

Mike Jones:
That’s great. That’s awesome.

Roxy Helman:
It could just be the sales and trading team now that they’re upstairs with us.

Ashley Ellixson:
Yeah, that too.

Roxy Helman:
People everywhere.

Ashley Ellixson:
That, and we don’t… At least some of us don’t have actual offices anymore, so we’re kind of buzzing, literally buzzing around. I pop in. I’m going to sit here and take a call. I’m not talking to you.

Roxy Helman:
Yeah.

Ashley Ellixson:
Yeah.

Mike Jones:
I just saw a photo on, I was telling Sam, I saw photo on LinkedIn of someone who had just come back to the office after being gone for the pandemic and they had, I don’t know if they or someone had taped a piece of paper to the back of their chair as they were working. And it said, “Don’t talk to me unless you and I both want to lose the next two hours of your life, because I won’t be able to stop talking.”

Roxy Helman:
That’s true.

Ashley Ellixson:
That’s really true.

Roxy Helman:
That’s a thing.

Ashley Ellixson:
That’s a thing, yeah.

Roxy Helman:
Because we definitely, especially when the kids were out. We were more working from home and then I felt I was so excited to get back in the office, but I also felt it was so easy to just be like, “Tell me everything about what’s going on,” and get sidetracked.

Ashley Ellixson:
Yeah.

Mike Jones:
Yep.

Ashley Ellixson:
So much excitement to interact again.

Mike Jones:
Yeah, totally.

Ashley Ellixson:
Yeah.

Mike Jones:
Well, talk to me a little bit about the last year and a half, two years. How did the pandemic kind of impact UDA and kind of what experience was that like from the business side of things?

Roxy Helman:
You want me to take this one?

Ashley Ellixson:
Yeah, it’s definitely a combo. So it was just like everybody in, I mean, extremely impactful at the beginning. Who could have prepared for almost overnight, basically a shutdown of business, supply chain, office buildings. The thing, and the unique thing about the dairy industry is that we are 365 days a year, 24 hours a day because you can’t shut off milking a cow like a faucet. So although, many people started to see, I just described earlier about the no milk on the shelves. They were limiting milk purchases. We started to see supply chain backup. There was dumping of milk at that time. There was several news stations and interviews that were done. I know Roxy kept at one point an Excel spreadsheet about who was talking to who, worked on messaging. I mean, it was…

Mike Jones:
A lot of PR.

Ashley Ellixson:
It was all hands on deck.

Mike Jones:
Yeah.

Ashley Ellixson:
What we worked diligently to do is to ensure that our message got out there immediately. We were working with our state representatives, with our lobbyist group to make sure that people knew we were trying to get product to them as quick as we could, because we had the milk. The milk was never not there, but just like everybody else, there wasn’t enough refrigerated trucks to move to the grocery stores because people were in a frenzy buying everything off the shelf so quickly. So that big disruption supply chain hit us hard for a good two weeks. And then we instigated immediately a daily executive call. I think it was 08:00 or 09:00 AM. And it was just like, “Okay, what’s going on? What are the issues you’re seeing?” How do we handle COVID because it was like, well what’s COVID?

Mike Jones:
Yeah.

Ashley Ellixson:
And how scared should we be? And…

Mike Jones:
Right.

Ashley Ellixson:
How do we protect our employees? And should we wear mask? Should we not? We aired on the side of being safe. We ordered masks really early on. We instigated policies early on, kind of before there was anything really out there. So I look back and we pivoted quickly. And I think that’s why Roxy you say, “Why did I do it in the middle of the pandemic? Why did I do rebranding?” I think because we’re like bring it on. We got, through that. We’re still moving, let’s do this thing. No one’s going to stop us.

Roxy Helman:
Yeah. I, there was one pivotal day that I can remember with our previous CEO. And it was a day when one of our largest customers who does food service was like, “Oh, by the way, we’re shutting down.” And that was kind of the start of, oh yeah, there’s a lot of milk here. And I was going to go in and do a video message with him. And I was so excited and he was like, “I can’t do this right now. I’ve never seen anything like what just happened and Roxy, I don’t know what to say.” And he just, I’ve never seen him be shaken or kind of, this was completely new. So it felt very heavy. And I was like, oh man, what’s going to happen. So the fact that we’ve made it since that day and it feels like we’re stronger and better together. It’s crazy.

Ashley Ellixson:
Yeah, absolutely. And I, I’ll just highlight a couple other things. We worked, Roxy worked diligently with, I’m going to totally forget the term, the food banks and trying to get donations to food banks. And I worked with the department of education, or education and agriculture actually to get these waivers from USDA to get gallon milk jugs into the school lunch program because kids weren’t at school. Places like Nogales, if those kids didn’t get a school lunch, they weren’t eating.

Mike Jones:
Yep.

Ashley Ellixson:
So we were like, it was getting nutrition to the people. Making sure our farmers didn’t dump milk.

Mike Jones:
Yeah.

Ashley Ellixson:
And walking and tackling.

Mike Jones:
Alternative, ways to distribute it, right?

Ashley Ellixson:
Exactly. It’s like we have the nutrition, we can do this. We just need to find the right partners.

Mike Jones:
Yeah.

Ashley Ellixson:
And I think that was, there was a lot of people involved and wanted the same thing. So that was really inspiring during those time.

Roxy Helman:
Yeah. And definitely, when we first started dumping milk and it was kind of more on the news and people were almost enraged. They were just like, “How could you do this?” And we were like, we literally, we don’t bottle milk. We have nothing we can do.

Mike Jones:
Where can we put it?

Roxy Helman:
Well, you tell us. Where do you want this to go? So it felt a little discouraging at first. But then when we kind of rallied with United Food Bank, we made a little community donation page. We raised almost $20,000 for them to purchase milk and transport milk. And just that alone was super inspiring and encouraging because I’m like, yeah, even the community wants to get in on this and help those who need it right now. So it was crazy, but awesome.

Sam:
Yeah. It’s cool to think about too. Just the operation being so central to not just Tempe but the whole state really. I mean it’s in the middle of everything.

Roxy Helman:
Yeah.

Sam:
And to be able to pivot that quickly to reach really the ends of the state to help out like that is pretty incredible. It’s kind of like we have this not so secret weapon right in the middle of our state. That’s just always there, always pumping out.

Roxy Helman:
Yeah. Pumping out milk.

Sam:
That’s right.

Mike Jones:
Tell me, I like to ask everybody I talk to on the podcast, what’s been the most interesting or favorite thing you’ve done to promote the brand over the years? There’s usually one or two things that are…

Ashley Ellixson:
Gosh.

Mike Jones:
Either we had fun with that, or that was interesting. That was random. That was weird. Anything?

Roxy Helman:
I have something.

Ashley Ellixson:
Go ahead, you go.

Roxy Helman:
This is before we did a rebranding.

Mike Jones:
Yeah, yeah.

Roxy Helman:
So my favorite day ever at UDA was actually with Sam when we were…

Mike Jones:
It was you Sam.

Roxy Helman:
It was you. I met Sam and I was like, this is my favorite part of the job. The end. All this is weird. It was when we were nominated for a business excellence award.

Mike Jones:
Yeah.

Roxy Helman:
And Sam’s old business, Pelican Media.

Sam:
Pelican Media.

Roxy Helman:
Yes. Filmed, the farm to table or, farm to plant process for our brand for our company video for this. And everything ran so smoothly. I think we filmed in half of a day, people were where they needed to be at the right times and excited and wanted to be part of it. And at the end we had this big group shot and I was like, oh my gosh, no one’s going to show up because everyone’s so busy. And we had 50 people show up for this big giant group shot at the end. And I was just like, my heart is overflowing with happiness. People want to be part of this and people are excited and so that was super fun day.

Sam:
That was a fun day.

Ashley Ellixson:
Yeah. That was an incredible video. I will say every time I watch it, I get invigorated. I’m so grateful to be a part of the organization. Yeah. I have so many things, that I get excited about.

Mike Jones:
Give us one or two.

Ashley Ellixson:
Gosh, one or two. So I, this is more, I guess at the national level.

Mike Jones:
Yeah.

Ashley Ellixson:
I love when going to conferences, people are like, “Oh, UDA. We know UDA, what are you doing? You’re doing some pretty cool things.” Roxy does, oh, I’m getting compliments on our website, right? Even the previous website and new website, it’s just awesome to be recognized. And knowing that we’re out there, even if we aren’t physically out there, right? Because we didn’t really ever sell our own products. We don’t have our own consumer brand. So to me that’s really exciting.

Mike Jones:
Yeah. No, it’s clear there’s a reputation you’ve built in the industry.

Ashley Ellixson:
Yeah.

Mike Jones:
And it may not always trickle down to the end customer.

Ashley Ellixson:
Sure.

Mike Jones:
And maybe that’s okay. Maybe that’s good. They don’t need to know, but I think your partners really know that and they see it. Obviously they’re asking, what are you working on now?

Ashley Ellixson:
Yes.

Roxy Helman:
I will say, especially with a new logo rolling out this year. People have been so complimentary and just love it. And I’m like it’s Resound. Go to Resound for all your needs, all your marketing needs. Yeah, but I mean, it’s just such a different vibe from what we had before.

Ashley Ellixson:
Yeah.

Sam:
Yeah.

Mike Jones:
Yeah.

Ashley Ellixson:
I think because it’s, we own it. As a collective, we worked on it.

Sam:
Yep.

Ashley Ellixson:
Together.

Mike Jones:
Yep.

Ashley Ellixson:
We are committed to it. And I think that that’s what makes it so different.

Sam:
Yeah. I was going to say, I mean we were honored that we got to be a part of that process, but it was your, it’s your brand and it was very clearly a collaborative process. Even internally amongst your teams of, one just kind of working on what do we stand for and what driving the business? But also even what’s the logo going to look like, right? And…

Roxy Helman:
Are we going to change the logo at all?

Sam:
Are we going to change it at all? I mean, that was a big question. We sat in that room with probably what…

Roxy Helman:
There could not be anything better.

Sam:
… 20 people, all with a different opinion on that logo.

Ashley Ellixson:
Well, because you had so many different tenures in that room.

Sam:
Yeah.

Ashley Ellixson:
You had people, what Steve’s been there 37 years. My predecessor who wasn’t in the room, but he was there for 42, 43 years. So you had that and then you had people like me, I think I’d only been there, not even four years at the time and everything in between.

Sam:
Yeah.

Ashley Ellixson:
Right.

Roxy Helman:
Yeah. Yeah, and we had our new IT, VP of IT, I think he was there one month or two.

Ashley Ellixson:
Yeah, two months.

Roxy Helman:
Yeah. He was very new.

Sam:
Yeah. You even had people in that room who had the previous, previous logo, on their shirts.

Roxy Helman:
Sure, yes. Still trying to get rid of that logo.

Mike Jones:
And really like that.

Sam:
Yeah.

Roxy Helman:
They still…

Mike Jones:
I want this.

Roxy Helman:
They still have them. We’re working on…

Mike Jones:
It’s retro now. Now it’s retro.

Roxy Helman:
Yes, right.

Mike Jones:
Now it’s cool.

Ashley Ellixson:
Now it’s limited edition.

Roxy Helman:
It’s cool. It’s cool.

Sam:
Yeah. No, it was such a fun process though. I think to go it was really good. To kind of unpack what makes UDA unique and authentic and real.

Ashley Ellixson:
And I had never done anything like that. Sticky notes on the wall.

Sam:
There were a lot of sticky notes.

Ashley Ellixson:
I am all about that.

Sam:
Yeah.

Ashley Ellixson:
That was a great process. And I’m not really a creative person in my daily.

Sam:
Yep.

Mike Jones:
It’s good.

Sam:
Yeah.

Ashley Ellixson:
Yeah.

Sam:
And that was a remarkably smooth process too. That really went…

Speaker 7:
It was.

Sam:
Which full credit to Roxy.

Speaker 7:
Yeah.

Roxy Helman:
Ooh.

Sam:
For pushing it through. It was just…

Roxy Helman:
Not me, kudos.

Sam:
… Oh man. It was that, I don’t know.

Roxy Helman:
I think everyone was too busy. They were so busy. They’re were like for sure, yeah, whatever Roxy, it’s fine. I’m like we’re good.

Mike Jones:
I’m in pandemic mode. Don’t worry about it, just go. Well that’s that drive. That’s the drive.

Sam:
Yeah.

Mike Jones:
I mean dairy seems like kind of a commoditized market. How do you kind of stand out? How do you kind of say, Hey, this, we’re doing something unique and special even within an industry where it’s, milk is milk, right? Or at least maybe that’s the assumption.

Roxy Helman:
I don’t know. Can you talk about our few fun ideas?

Ashley Ellixson:
I mean, yeah. And I feel there’s kind of two ways to look at this, right? Because we have the brand, our powders that we sell out of the manufacturing plant and then, we have the raw milk, which I don’t know which one of you was talking about, but it has such a high quality, that we want to promote other companies to come here and use it within their process, right? And that’s exciting too. So on the powder side of things, we literally just onboarded a whole new sales and trading team, maybe eight weeks ago and continuing to grow that. So as far as differentiating ourselves in lifting ourselves up from the commodity market, you’re absolutely right, the non-fat dry milk, that is the commodity market. How do you create that higher value add? And that’s kind of what we’re on our journey with now. So I don’t know where you were going to go with it but…

Roxy Helman:
That was what I was thinking.

Ashley Ellixson:
Yeah, so go ahead.

Roxy Helman:
Super early. Just kind of tightening up what we have and our sales team and I think we’re going to brand it and move forward with a branded powdered milk product and other fun things.

Ashley Ellixson:
Yeah. So yeah, I mean a little more detail into that. We’re about to create a separate entity solely owned subsidiary of UDA and kind of be able to get allocations from other manufacturers and return a higher value to other co-ops that are smaller mid-size that maybe don’t have an internal marketing and sales team. Because right now they’re paying more money to outsource those sales and we feel we have a premier sales and trading team to be able to do that and market that out.

Mike Jones:
Yeah.

Ashley Ellixson:
To the rest of the US Dairy Industry. So that’ll be Roxy’s next fun endeavor.

Roxy Helman:
Fun to come, yes.

Mike Jones:
That’s the fun part of full service.

Roxy Helman:
Surprise. Yes.

Mike Jones:
You come up with more ways to serve your different constituents and new products, new service, new ways to do that. That’s really cool.

Ashley Ellixson:
Yeah.

Roxy Helman:
Yeah, for sure.

Mike Jones:
That’s really cool.

Roxy Helman:
And it is kind of an honor when we say we have high, the highest quality milk in the nation. I want to say a lot of that was kind of pushed by fair life and their quality needs. And then we made sure that we could meet them and exceed them and, which just makes everyone else’s milk better too. So your milk can stay fresher longer. It has more protein, better butter fat. I mean, it’s just good for everyone.

Ashley Ellixson:
Yeah.

Roxy Helman:
And we’ve gotten that feedback from our other customers. They’re like, wow, this is different for X, Y, Z reason. And we’re like, oh yeah, you’re getting the benefits of the higher quality milk, you’re welcome.

Mike Jones:
Yeah. That’s awesome.

Roxy Helman:
Yeah.

Mike Jones:
So when I go to Fries and pick up a gallon of milk, I’m getting a better gallon of milk than if I were to go shopping in a different state?

Roxy Helman:
Probably.

Mike Jones:
I mean, totally. Right?

Ashley Ellixson:
I mean absolutely.

Roxy Helman:
100%.

Mike Jones:
That’s not biased at all.

Roxy Helman:
Well, no. So my brain goes to like, well, what if the milk is driven to Utah? I can’t say that technically.

Mike Jones:
Okay.

Roxy Helman:
Yes. I’m just going to say absolutely.

Mike Jones:
Yeah.

Roxy Helman:
Very much.

Mike Jones:
Yeah, that’s cool. Is there anything exciting coming up? I know you just talked about some things that are coming up. Is there anything particularl you want people to about? Go check out that’s coming up or I assume you’ve got lots of job openings, like everyone else?

Roxy Helman:
We do.

Mike Jones:
Yes.

Roxy Helman:
Anyone wants a job, please.

Mike Jones:
I’m sure that’s a big one.

Ashley Ellixson:
Yeah.

Roxy Helman:
Come on over.

Ashley Ellixson:
Come on over.

Roxy Helman:
Or actually go to our website.

Ashley Ellixson:
Yeah, yeah.

Mike Jones:
Go to the website first.

Roxy Helman:
Yes.

Ashley Ellixson:
Yes.

Mike Jones:
Maybe fill out an application.

Roxy Helman:
And easier.

Mike Jones:
Then if it works, then come.

Roxy Helman:
Yes, yes. Also that.

Mike Jones:
Anything else?

Roxy Helman:
I don’t know.

Mike Jones:
Cool.

Roxy Helman:
I don’t think anything?

Mike Jones:
That’s awesome. Well, last question. This was the fun one. So like I mentioned before, we like to play a game at Resound called Name 10 Things, little improv off game. And so I thought it’d be fun to do that with you two as well. So we’ll do name 10 dairy products UDA will add to the mix someday.

Roxy Helman:
Whoa.

Sam:
And there’s no wrong answers?

Mike Jones:
There’s no wrong answers. That’s one of the key rules of Name 10 Things.

Ashley Ellixson:
So a product that UDA will add to the mix, no wrong answers. Drinkable’s.

Mike Jones:
Drinkable’s there we go, one.

Roxy Helman:
Swiss cheese.

Mike Jones:
Two.

Sam:
Yeah.

Mike Jones:
Nice.

Roxy Helman:
Specific.

Mike Jones:
Yeah. It’s very specific, I like it.

Roxy Helman:
Parmesan.

Mike Jones:
Three.

Sam:
Oh, delish. I’d be down with that.

Roxy Helman:
What if there’s a new flavor of curd? Let’s get some new curds.

Mike Jones:
Four.

Roxy Helman:
Ranch flavored. I don’t know.

Sam:
Ranch.

Mike Jones:
Ranch. That’s four.

Roxy Helman:
Doritos Locos Curds.

Ashley Ellixson:
I’ll get real geeky. Lactoperoxidase.

Roxy Helman:
Excuse me, what?

Mike Jones:
Five.

Ashley Ellixson:
I know, I had to do it.

Roxy Helman:
Is that even a thing?

Ashley Ellixson:
It’s like LactoFerrin, but it hasn’t been highly utilized yet. So it’s a new emerging market.

Mike Jones:
That’s cool.

Ashley Ellixson:
So I’m going to throw it out there.

Mike Jones:
For those dairy nerds out there who understand the words that you just said. I’m over here going, I don’t know.

Ashley Ellixson:
Yeah.

Mike Jones:
So you’re at five. You have five more.

Roxy Helman:
I think the pharmaceutical grade lactose is going to be a game changer.

Mike Jones:
Six.

Roxy Helman:
Yep. Six.

Ashley Ellixson:
NPCA 80. Milk protein concentrate. We make NPC 70 today. So that’s the percentage of the protein in the mix. But there’s a market of higher value if you will, for NPCA 80. So there you go.

Mike Jones:
Seven.

Roxy Helman:
What if I go a little bit broad.

Ashley Ellixson:
Do it.

Roxy Helman:
And say RNG because our dairy farmers are doing the methane digester thing and kind of getting into the whole natural gas space.

Ashley Ellixson:
Oh yeah.

Mike Jones:
Oh. This is interesting.

Roxy Helman:
We’re going to be an environmental solution. Absolutely. You’re not going far out of this space at all.

Mike Jones:
An energy company.

Roxy Helman:
Energy. Gas. Yep.

Mike Jones:
There’s number eight.

Ashley Ellixson:
Land Barrens.

Mike Jones:
All right. Nine.

Sam:
Okay.

Mike Jones:
Bring it home.

Ashley Ellixson:
Warehousing overseas.

Mike Jones:
There you go, 10.

Sam:
Cool.

Mike Jones:
Ooh. Full service.

Roxy Helman:
That’s a good one.

Mike Jones:
I like that.

Roxy Helman:
Full service.

Mike Jones:
That’s interesting.

Roxy Helman:
Around the globe.

Ashley Ellixson:
Yep. That’s where we’re headed.

Mike Jones:
Cool. Well, Roxy, Ashley, thank you so much for coming on the AZ Brandcast.

Roxy Helman:
Thank you.

Mike Jones:
This was a great conversation.

Ashley Ellixson:
Yeah, this was awesome.

Mike Jones:
Thanks for flying through all my questions. I feel I had a lot of questions this time. So for people to find out more about you guys and UDA, I think the website’s probably a good place to go. UDA dot C-O-O-P. For those that want to go check that out.

Roxy Helman:
Please do.

Mike Jones:
Or you can find them and everything about UDA and what you’re doing right now on their Instagram and Twitter, Facebook channels at UDA Milk. It’s another great place to find them. Anywhere else they need to add?

Roxy Helman:
We’re on LinkedIn.

Mike Jones:
LinkedIn.

Ashley Ellixson:
Yeah. LinkedIn

Mike Jones:
Check them out on…

Sam:
Or stop into the Milk and More store.

Roxy Helman:
Yeah.

Mike Jones:
Oh yeah.

Roxy Helman:
Absolutely stop at the Milk and More store on a Thursday for your fresh cheese curds.

Sam:
Fresh curds.

Mike Jones:
Ooh, fresh cheese curds.

Ashley Ellixson:
Or right now for your cheese boxes.

Roxy Helman:
Oh, yes.

Sam:
Yeah, holiday cheese boxes.

Mike Jones:
Holiday cheese boxes.

Ashley Ellixson:
Holiday cheese boxes.

Roxy Helman:
Or Eggnog is in right now too.

Ashley Ellixson:
Then Eggnog.

Roxy Helman:
That’s the thing.

Mike Jones:
That’s awesome.

Roxy Helman:
Yep.

Mike Jones:
I’m going to have to… Yeah, yeah. That just got added to my list. That’s awesome. Sam knows a good idea. Milk and More.

Sam:
Yeah.

Mike Jones:
Cool.

Roxy Helman:
Yeah, Sam knows.

Mike Jones:
Yeah. Well I just want to thank all of our listeners for listening in on another episode of AZ Brandcast. Where we delve into the makings of remarkable brands right here in the state of Arizona. Thanks you, thanks so much for joining us. If you want to find out more about AZ Brandcast and all of our past episodes, they are on AZ brandcast.com or you can find us and all of our episodes on all of your favorite podcast directories, like Apple podcasts, Overcast, Spotify, Pandora. I think we’re on Amazon music now, which is pretty cool and pretty much anywhere else. If there’s somewhere that you like to listen to podcast and you don’t find us, please let me know. Send us an email at azbrandcast.com and don’t forget you are remarkable.

Speaker 8:
The AZ Brandcast is a project of Resound and is recorded in Tempe, Arizona with host Mike Jones and Chris Statler. It’s produced and edited by Sam Peggle. Music is produced and provided by Pabrid, an Arizona based music group. You can find us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and at azbcast.com. If you’d like more episodes, subscribe on a iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, or wherever you prefer to get your podcast. To contact the show, find out more about AZ Brandcast or to join our newsletter list to make sure you never miss another episode. Check out our website at azbrandcast.com. Copyright Resound, creative media, LLC, 2020.