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Oberweis Dairy

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Oberweis Dairy counts paper cups and plastic spoons among its most powerful marketing tools.

"Every other company believes milk is milk," says Bob Renaut, 50, president-CEO. " We believe that's not true. The trick is to get the customer to taste our product. ... they'll try it and come back."

That strategy of product sampling has paid off handsomely. Annual sales have increased 15% to 25% for each of the past five years, and this year are expected to hit $55 million for the company that serves the metropolitan Chicago, St. Louis and Indianapolis markets with milk, ice cream and related products.

Mr. Renaut's refusal to treat dairy products as a commodity also accounts for the company's steadfast commitment to using half-gallon glass bottles for its hormone-free milk, retailing for $2.50 a bottle. It was only recently the company agreed to put any of its milk in plastic bottles, and that's only for a 12-ounce, single-serve product line. Another first came this summer when Oberweis ran its first local TV campaign, produced through I-Imagine Entertainment, Washington.

The 76-year-old dairy has 45,000 home delivery customers, 29 Oberweis stores and selected supermarket accounts. The three-prong distribution strategy increases sales while building brand awareness and enabling cross-promotions and sampling.

"It's a tremendous door opener for us," says Mr. Renaut.

Mr. Renaut's goal is to take the company national within 10 years, using direct mail, increased TV advertising and consumers' taste buds. "We focus and stick to our knitting," he says.

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