Anger as Arla unveils plans for plant-based Lurpak ‘butter’

Arla farmer-owners say they are hugely disappointed after the company announced plans internally to launch a plant-based Lurpak “butter”. 

The dairy co-operative told its farmer-owners on Monday 5 June it was exploring opportunities to launch a plant-based spreadable Lurpak product in the UK and Denmark in 2024. 

See also: Arla to pay farmers for environmental sustainability from 2023

Dairy farmers in the two countries who supply milk to Arla told of their disbelief over the plans and are concerned this move could put the reputation of the Lurpak brand at risk. 

News of the product launch proposal was made a week after Arla announced a 1.78p/litre milk price cut, which will see farmgate prices for both conventional and organic milk in the UK fall to 35.21p/litre and 40.88p/litre, respectively. 

Gary Mitchell, an Arla milk supplier who sits on the board of representatives, said: “We are in disbelief that Arla decides to launch a plant-based alternative using the Lurpak name, our world-renowned and best-selling dairy brand, at this time when we are beginning the journey to produce milk more sustainably.” 

Another Arla farmer-owner, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “Lurpak is a dairy brand which is very trusted by the consumer. I’m not sure Arla should be going down the plant-based spreadable route. If it does, it should use its plant-based brand Jord.”

Arla response 

Peter Giortz-Carlsen, chief commercial officer of Arla Foods Europe, defended the company’s plans.  

He said: “Milk will always be at the heart of what we do and our co-operative business, but we also know that many households who choose plant-based products also have dairy in their fridge.  

“We remain committed to providing great-tasting, nutritious food, and we want to give shoppers the options that meet their changing needs and tastes.  

“We want to maintain Lurpak’s position as the number one butter brand for consumers both today and in the future, and putting the might of the beloved Lurpak brand behind a plant-based option reinforces our commitment to giving people great-tasting options.”

Arla UK boss moves to Sofina Foods Europe

Ash Amirahmadi, Arla UK’s managing director, is leaving to become chief executive of Sofina Foods Europe.

He will be leaving the business on 31 July and will be replaced by Bas Padberg, who is currently vice-president of Arla Foods Southeast Asia. Mr Padberg will take up his new role on 1 January 2024.

Mr Amirahmadi joined Arla Foods in 2004 from Unilever and held several leading roles across the organisation before being appointed as managing director of Arla UK in 2018.

“It’s been a difficult decision to leave Arla after a joyful 20 years,” he said. “I complete my time both with a sense of sadness and pride. I will miss our farmers, our people and the deep friendships I have developed.”

Arla Foods, which is home to brands including Cravendale, Lurpak, Anchor and Starbucks chilled drinks, is a global dairy company and co-operative owned by about 8,492 dairy farmers, of whom 2,053 are British. It is the world’s fifth-largest dairy company and the largest supplier of organic dairy products.