In a market crowded with plant-based substitutes, Zeal Creamery wants to bring back cow’s milk. A Chicago-based brand named for a New Zealand style of farming that prioritizes the well-being of cows, Zeal has a new marketing campaign out to distinguish itself from the sea of rivals. Cow's milk competitors such as almond and oat milk have been consistently growing in popularity over the past few years, making a small but notable difference in shopper's cow’s milk consumption. But Zeal’s first-ever campaign aims to boost awareness for its brand by highlighting exactly how much activity its free-range cows get.
Inspiration for the spot struck when Zeal President Jason Henshaw was describing the farm in his first meeting with Chicago-based marketing and communications firm M. Harris & Co. He noted that Zeal's cows are outside so often they surely "walk 10,000 steps a day," according to Melissa Harris, CEO of M. Harris, the agency behind the new push.
When Henshaw told Harris that they were planning to put this claim to the test and put pedometers on a few of the cows, the marketer in Harris knew it couldn't happen without a camera crew. The result is a spot that feels equal parts ESPN and NatGeo, though slightly similar to a 2018 campaign from Organic Valley where they too used fitness trackers on their cows.
It's no surprise that Zeal is focusing on the health of its cows as it seeks to differentiate itself. Zeal says animal welfare plays a big role in the campany ethos—their cows eat nothing but grass and never see the inside of a barn. Henshaw reports that Zeal’s cows live roughly 3 times longer and produce milk with more protein than factory farm competitors.
Sustainability also plays a role in Zeal’s identity. They use a rotational grazing method to support the health of their farms, certainly preferable to massive corporate dairies, though the environmental impact of dairy farming is holistically more harmful than helpful. Still, as almond milk faces its own environmental reconing, artisanal cow’s milk and dairy products like Zeal's may be able to come out on top as a more healthful and sustainable option.
While Zeal is in growth mode, having expanded to 200 stores from 10 in the last year, the brand is still focusing on a smaller footprint to ensure quality. Its products are only available in five states: New York, Illinois, Wisconsin, Texas and Missouri, specifically within top-quality grocers with loyal shoppers. A 64-ounce jug of Zeal milk costs $5.99 at Central Market in Texas, compared to $1.55 for a generic jug at Walmart. It's a higher-end, higher-quality product aimed at selective shoppers.