Dairy Farmers of Ontario names new CEO

Parmalat's Cheryl Smith has been hired to bring her understanding of consumers to the marketing and lobbying group's leadership.


The Dairy Farmers of Ontario (DFO), the marketing and lobbying group representing dairy farmers in the province, has hired Cheryl Smith as its new CEO.

Her first day in her new role is Aug. 19. Graham Lloyd, previously general manager and CEO of DFO, left the organization at the end of January.

Smith joins after nearly 20 years with dairy company Parmalat, which owns the Beatrice, Black Diamond, Lactantia, Balderson and Astro brands. She was most recently that company’s general manager for its cheese division, but has also held various EVP positions, including ones covering consumer and trade marketing duties. Murray Sherk, chair of DFO’s board, said in a release that the board felt a leader who understands consumers and the “interconnectivity” of the stakeholders in the dairy industry would be beneficial to help it face the “many challenges of the future.”

One of those challenges are ongoing industry concerns about declines in Canadian dairy consumption, due to consumer attitudes about things such as health and the environmental impact of dairy farming, competition from increasingly popular plant-based dairy alternatives and an growing diverse Canadian population that is less inclined to drink milk.

Earlier this year, Health Canada released an updated version of Canada’s Food Guide, which eliminated food groups (of which dairy had previously been a staple) and de-emphasized the role of dairy and meat in a balanced diet in favour of more plant-based options. DFO and, more broadly, the dairy industry in Canada is preparing for the impacts of a new trade deal between Canada, U.S. and Mexico.

In the spring, DFO launched its first fully integrated campaign in 12 years, which focused on real family-owned dairy farms – one of several from dairy trade organizations to try to tackle “misconceptions” about dairy products and the industry that makes them. It was also its first major work with new agency of record No Fixed Address, which won the account at the beginning of the year.

That campaign was also the biggest marketing effort since the DFO withdrew the $40 million in marketing dollars it paid to the national Dairy Farmers of Canada in 2018, after which it embarked on building its own consumer marketing department as part of an Ontario-specific strategy.