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Market Watch Diary: It’s Time to Get Out of the Milk Business

17:16PM Feb 25, 2015

Don’t stop milking your cows. Simply stop calling it milk.

That’s right: If you really want to sell more milk, you should stop calling it milk. You’ve got to admit: Milk’s
image has been pounded on by every crazy out there and by some not-so-crazy. I think it’s time for a change; a name change and a positioning change.

Soda isn’t called artificially-flavored, artificially-colored, artificially-carbonated water. It is called Coca-Cola. Instead of calling milk “milk”, maybe call it “fairlife” or some other fanciful name.

You’ve probably heard about fairlife. The ultra-filtered milk is being launched by the partnership of Select Milk Producers Inc of Artesia, N.M., and The Coca-Cola Co. based in Atlanta. Clearly, this is a very talented team.


With 50% more protein and 30% more calcium, fairlife milk is targeted toward millennials with an active lifestyle.     

By ringing out some of the water and lactose, the finished beverage has 50% more protein, 30% more calcium and half as much sugar as straight-from-the-cow milk. But it is being positioned as milk. It is delivered complete with a cow on the label.

fairlife is a great product; a great idea. I’m betting it will be very successful, but I’m thinking yet another step down the road.

I was involved in an unfortunate product introduction many years ago. It was milk with root beer flavoring. Yes, root beer-flavored milk. In our first focus group, nine out of 10 people turned up their nose. They would not even try the product.

Next focus group, I called it a root beer float. Everyone tried it; nine out of 10 loved it.

So, what’s so unfortunate? The company introduced Root Beer-Flavored Milk. “Jerry, it’s milk; we have to call it milk,” they explained. Two months later, the product was on the scrap heap. Twenty years ago, it was time to get out of the milk business.
I’m thinking of the popular coffee-flavored milk products. Products such as Starbucks coffee-flavored milk, Frappuccino or expresso-flavored milk, Cappuccino.

These two Starbucks items don’t just change the name of milk; they also change its positioning in the consumer’s mind. Milk just became a snack, not a drink, not a beverage, not milk. Milk just became dessert. Milk just became a reward for a job well done.

Folks in the cheese business have been playing the positioning game for years. It’s a snack (think cubes or strings); it’s a topping (pizza); it’s a condiment (on a burger or on a salad); and it’s a baked potato topper (a
blend of shreds).

Cheese marketers have gotten out of the cheese business and into the snack food business. Out of the cheese business and into the entrée (mac & cheese) business—and the dessert and appetizer business.

I think you get my drift. It’s time to get out of the milk business.