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The REAL® Seal: A Brief History

The REAL® Seal was developed as a public service in 1976 by the California dairy industry. The goal was primarily to combat the use of imitation cheeses on pizzas. In 1980, ownership of the program was transferred to the United Dairy Industry Association for use nationwide on dairy products and frozen pizzas.


The Seal—a white drop of milk with a red border and the word “Real” inside—is a federally registered trademark. To use the Seal, companies must register their products annually. A product cannot carry the Seal if it fails to meet required standards or if it contains dairy products imported from other countries.


Several extensive REAL® Seal advertising campaigns were conducted in the 1980s. More recent promotions have been driven mostly by the companies that display the Seal on their products. Even at this reduced level of activity, however, awareness of the REAL® Seal has remained high. Industry polling indicates nine out of 10 consumers are aware of the Seal and, among those familiar with it, nine out of 10 find it useful in making buying decisions.


In March of 2012, the Seal was licensed to the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), the voice of more than 32,000 dairy producers in Washington, DC. NMPF understands the importance of accurate food labeling, and one of its missions is protecting the integrity and value of U.S. dairy products. NMPF took over the REAL® Seal because it felt the program could be one means to help connect the dairy industry with consumers facing a greater variety of non-dairy imitation and substitute dairy products.