A realized strategy can be understood as the sum of a company’s observable strategic actions over time. This concept of strategy is difficult to grasp empirically. However, the content analysis enables a systematic, dynamic and theoretically sound recording of realized strategies. To demonstrate the potential of the method in capturing strategies we encode 4,158 pieces of information about strategic actions of ten European dairy companies in the German market for over 11 years. Based on this we suggest a mixed methods approach to learn more about the individual companies’ competitive moves and their realized strategies. The companies investigated differ in their adaptation to changing environmental conditions and in particular in their brand policy. The trend ‘animal welfare’ shows that most dairy companies reacted late and left the initiative to the retail trade. Our approach can be applied to many questions in strategy research and promises new insights into the strategies of companies in the food industry.