23 August 2002

White & Wild branding is a success with consumers

By Andrew Shirley

THE success of a unique branded milk product has shown that, despite widespread industry scepticism, it is possible to add value to liquid milk and boost farmers incomes, says one of the brains behind the product.

"We have proved conclusively there is a market out there," says Ken Whitely, a director of the Wildcare Dairy Group formed to market White & Wild milk. "The biggest reason for the milk industrys demise was the preconceived idea that the public wouldnt pay more for milk."

White & Wild, which guarantees to pay dairy farmers an extra 3p/litre for their milk while also donating 2p/litre to the Wildlife Trusts, was launched last April in 60 Sainsbury stores as part of a three-month trial, and the retailer has now confirmed that it will continue to stock the brand.

A spokeswoman for the supermarket says the milk – which retails at 57p/litre for semi-skimmed and 83p/litre for organic, about 10p/litre more than the stores standard lines – sold well, but sales varied significantly between stores.

David Shaw, chairman of the Ayrshire-based Sorn Milk Group, which is supplying the milk, admits that, so far, the volumes sold have not been enough to have a big impact on his members incomes. But by the end of the year he expects the milk to be in 1500-2000 stores as more retailers come on board. "That will have an effect, no doubt about it."

Once that happens, he says he will be looking for new members in England to join the group. As part of the deal, dairy farmers receiving the 3p/litre premium must agree to manage their holdings in a conservation-minded way and agree to undergo an environmental audit.

Despite White & Wilds popularity, Mr Whitely says the launch was not all plain sailing and anybody planning a similar venture must be prepared to listen to the market and make changes quickly to survive.

"Initially, the labels looked similar to Sainsburys own and they kept falling off. We immediately redesigned them and made them out of plastic to ensure they stayed on the bottles."

A spokeswoman for market research company Taylor Nelson Sofres says the outlook for branded milk products is encouraging, noting that their market share of the liquid milk market for the 12 months to July increased by 6%, commanding an average 6p/litre premium over private label milk. &#42