The Reinvention of Milk through Coca-Cola


by Danielle Palmer, Alltech

Milk. Has it fallen into a rut? Fewer and fewer young people are drinking it regularly, and it appears in the dairy aisle as a nondescript mass of white cartons – one brand or variety blending into the next, often sold as a loss leader by supermarkets.  Is there anything that makes milk brands special?

Mary Shelman, director of Harvard Business School’s agribusiness program, highlighted this issue in the Marketing for Business Growth session during Alltech’s REBELation, focusing on the Coca-Cola and Fair Oaks Farms Brands partnership that brings to market new premium milk that Coca-Cola believes will revolutionize the milk sector. The company is a giant in the beverage market, beyond just soft drinks, with 20 different billion-dollar brands – including teas, juices and energy drinks.


“What’s been happening for the last 40 years is that liquid milk consumption has been in a nosedive,” Shelman said. She added that today, with the array of energy drinks, teas, sparkling waters and more, there is a “proliferation of products that are eating away at this very natural, relatively inexpensive, very healthy beverage. Isn’t it time for a ‘rebelation’ in this category?”

Shelman highlighted the “branding roadmap” she recommends for brands to create products that stand out from the crowd. Ag companies have often lagged in this arena, she said.

  • Know your customer
  • Give your product a job
  • Develop your story
  • Stand out from the crowd
  • Get people talking

“The traditional way that we built brands is a thing of the past,” she said. “The new citizen consumer is much more engaged in the food they’re buying.” Smartphones have also revolutionized the way people shop, as they can garner information on food or health within seconds while shopping.

Coca-Cola, in a recent report, stated it expects its premium Fairlife milk to “rain money” following its extensive marketing efforts – despite the fact that Fairlife milks are nearly twice the cost of traditional milk, said Shelman. The Fairlife line of milk, with the tagline “Believe in better milk,” goes through a unique filtration process that produces milk with 50 percent more protein, 30 percent more calcium, half the sugars of organic milk and is lactose free.

In closing, Shelman highlighted three main points:

  • Food is hot right now.
  • There is a great story, but it has to be told in the right way.
  •  Because traditional elements of building brands aren’t working, it opens the door for new and creative ways to approach products and for smaller companies to get out and fill the space.


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Spell Check

Andrew Novakovic
Ithaca, NY
8/18/2015 07:45 AM

  The Fairlife product is 100% cow's milk, unless you count the wee bit of lactase that is used to convert lactose into simpler sugars (just like any other lactose reduced milk) and vitamin A&D (which is added to most milks). It isn't milk straight from the cow, but what's in it pretty much only comes from cow's milk. BTW, this isn't the first time that someone has tried to introduce a "super-milk". California has been requiring all its reduced fat milks to be fortified with skim milk solids since the early 1960s. Protein fortified, Calcium fortified, "tastes and looks like 2%" and Smart Balance's suite of "super milks" are other examples. Except for CA, which requires only fortified milk, these products have never really caught on. As always, consumers will be the ultimate judge but so far I don't think Coke is feeling a fine mist, much less a heavy rain. The big question isn't so much acceptance of the product as acceptance of the price. We'll have to wait to see if Coke sticks with this product even if they have to take a lower price point to move a respectable volume.

8/15/2015 03:05 PM



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