Moove over big eyes: It's time for a more professional look.

Canada's dairy farmers are dumping their well-known cartoon logo in a bid to rebrand for 2017.

The switch starts next month, when consumers may start noticing a more stately, businesslike cow replacing the cutesy, jumping bovine trademark.

The makeover comes as consumer awareness is more important than ever for the dairy sector.

"From a corporate perspective, the cow wasn't serious enough ... way too cute to represent a collection of 11,000 dairy farms in Canada," said Victoria Cruz, the marketing and retail director for the Dairy Farmers of Canada.

"She was cute, she was likeable, but she wasn't professional enough. She wasn't the kind of visual symbol we wanted to use to communicate to the world the professionalism of our organization," she said.

Research found the cartoon logo is an enviably familiar brand in Canadian food marketing.

"There was a very strong awareness level of the blue cow, with 84 per cent of Canadians recognizing the cow," Cruz said. 

And that's the dilemma.

Not a minor change

​"If you have something going for you, why change it?" asks Gurprit Kindra, a marketing professor at the University of Ottawa who's done government studies on Canadian food branding (but did not work on this.) 

Successful brands aren't static. But they usually evolve more gradually. 

DFC_QualityMilk_Eng

This new symbol will certify that a dairy food is made only from Canadian ingredients. A similar logo was designed as the new corporate brand for the Dairy Farmers of Canada. (Dairy Farmers of Canada)

"This is a little bit more substantial than just a minor change," he said. "There might be some issues associated with identification."

Some elements — a cow, a maple leaf, the colour blue — remain. 

But the new cow "stands proudly, forward-looking, bearing the Canadian leaf prominently," boasts a video prepared for the new logo's launch. The similar but lighter bright blue colour "is optimistic, and speaks to freshness." 

If the cartoon cow signals dairy products are for kids, that doesn't boost consumption. And demographics have changed.

The new design "has a broader appeal to a larger audience," Kindra said.

The research says consumers know Canadian milk equals quality milk, Cruz said. Since quality is what consumers want, that's how the logo reads.

But the logo no longer specifically lays out the product's origin (Canada) or percentage of Canadian ingredients (100 per cent.)

That's still the turf this cow must defend.

Imports rising

There's nothing cute about trade threats from the United States, or anywhere else.

First came the Canada-European Union trade deal, which if ratified this year, will allow more cheese imports into Canada. While the future of the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal remains in doubt, it too would allow substantially more dairy imports if it came to pass.

EU Europe Canada Trade Dairy Aid 20161110

Canadian dairy farmers face new competitive threats, as trade agreements and potential trade challenges to their marketing board system loom. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

And then there are the opening salvos fired Thursday by the American dairy lobby, suggesting that Canada's supply-managed dairy sector generally, and recent moves to limit ultra-filtered milk imports from the U.S. specifically, should be challenged at the World Trade Organization (WTO.)

Ultra-filtered milk — a thick, glue-like concentrated protein product from south of the border — has been exploiting loopholes in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to enter Canada for several years.

Dairy processors making things like ice cream or cheese, including lactose-free products, have an alternative U.S. ingredient, displacing domestic supplies.

Canadian processors don't make ultra-filtered or diafiltered milk ingredients. That may change, but in the meantime — and contrary to what some may assume in a country critics refer to as having a monopoly dairy cartel — not everything in the dairy case is Canadian.

Enter that blue maple leaf. 

New cow appearing next month

A public opinion survey the dairy farmers did in 2015, timed to coincide with TPP negotiations, suggested 85 per cent of Canadians agreed with the statement they "didn't mind paying more for Canadian dairy products because they are hormone-free."

Kindra wonders why the logo isn't making a health pitch, based on the fact that bovine growth hormones aren't allowed for Canadian dairy herds.

While science hasn't concluded bovine growth hormones make milk unsafe for humans to consume, some consumers may prefer to avoid them.

"That is the crux of the matter in my opinion, and this logo doesn't speak to that," he said. "Most Americans would not be aware of this fact either, and that makes Canadian milk rather special."

"Trust in quality is crucial," he said.

But milk is a commodity product, similar to gasoline. Consumers may not see the difference.

A push is on to certify dairy processors to use the new image.

It debuts in February, first on dairy products from Quebec-based dairy cooperative Agropur on brands like Natrel and Québon.

Agropur 20161031

Agropur products like these from the Quebec-based dairy cooperative will be among the first to bear the new cow logo to signal they don't include foreign ingredients. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

Agropur decided last year not to import dairy ingredients, winning praise from farmers.

Other dairy processors certified to use the old logo can switch to the new look too, including small producers who use local ingredients as a selling point. 

A new television and print ad campaign for Canadian milk also rolls out Monday.