Milk marketing leaves glass half empty

Coca Cola is planning a massive investment in the new 'premiumized' milk.

Coca Cola has introduced Fairlife, a lactose-free milk available in two per cent, fat-free and chocolate, with increased protein and reduced sugar resulting from a new filtration process. Coke’s global chief customer officer said that the company was planning a massive investment in the new “premiumized” milk, which he hoped would prove so profitable it would “rain money” for the firm. Articles, blogs and comments immediately carried sarcastic responses to the new word for increased cost.

The battle is now on between people who prefer not to buy milk from a pop company; people who will pay double for extra protein and less sugar in a product similar to milk; and people who are lactose intolerant.

A 2007 Brazilian study found that lactose intolerance “affects more than 75 per cent of the population worldwide, with regional frequencies ranging from nearly five per cent in northern Europe to more than 90 per cent in some Asian and African countries.” So there is no argument that a lactose-free beverage will appeal to those segments. That is, if they want to drink milk.

But does the general population need Fairlife? For nearly 12 millennia humans have used regional variations on fermented milk products such as sour cream, cheese, kefir, kumis, yogurt and buttermilk without triggering lactose intolerance, so why would we need a new, patented product from Coca Cola?

I understand that both milk and pop consumption are down, so perhaps Coke hopes milk’s reputation as a wholesome food and the craze for smoothies in place of meals will persuade consumers to pay the premium prices for the ultra-filtered milk to replace faltering products.

An odd advertising campaign with sexy models ‘dressed’ in waves of milk is under way for Fairlife. The thought that people would buy a product because of pictures of pretty women reminded me of Carol Channing’s throaty-voiced advice in the 1970s ‘Free to Be’ program: “little boys, little girls, remember that the pretty ladies on TV are paid to smile as they clean their ovens.”

Initial news media comments in the U.K. suggest that the fate of Coke’s Dasani bottled water may befall “milka cola” in that country. When the British public discovered that not only was their Dasani actually tap water from a London suburb, but also that an early batch mineral content was defective, demand fell off so decisively that that product was pulled from that market within five weeks of its launch.

As for consumption of dairy products to provide essential calcium intake, one study concludes that a high milk intake in both sexes is associated with higher mortality and fracture rates, not to mention other negative factors, a pattern not observed with high intake of fermented milk products.

May I suggest eating more dark green leafy vegetables and canned fish with bones, along with weight-bearing exercise, for those worried about osteopororsis? Accompanied with pure, local water.

Marjorie Stewart is past chairwoman of the Nanaimo Foodshare Society. She can be reached at

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