In a statement sent to DairyReporter.com, Tom Godfrey, head of media, Choice accused the Australian fluid milk sector of "always trying to shake things up" with health-related claims "in a bid to cream customers" with premium-priced products.
“When it comes to milk, spin is everything,” said Godfrey.
"First it was permeates; now it’s a protein we are all supposed to fear."
Godfrey was, of course, referring to increasing Australian demand for milk featuring A2 beta casein claims.
Patent-protected a2 milk, marketed by the a2 Milk Company, is rich in A2 beta casein protein but contains no A1 beta casein, which has been linked to digestive discomfort. The premium product, which costs between AU$2.50 (US$2.30, €1.75) and AU$3.00 (US$2.80, €2.00) per litre, currently controls an approximate 8% share of the country's fluid milk market.
On the back of the concept's success, Australian dairy Lion recently began marketing its Pura and Dairy Farmers milk products with claims that between 50% and 70% of the contained protein is A2.
"Nothing to fear"
Commenting on the current milk craze, Godfrey said there is "nothing to fear from milk that doesn't make some apparently remarkable claim about A2."
“If you like buying cheaper milk that hasn't been through the marketing churn, drink up and enjoy the saving," he said.
“One thing you can be certain of is milk marketing is big business. Companies often go to great lengths to get consumers to pay a premium.”
The Australian Broadcast Corporation (ABC) reported earlier today that Choice’s criticism was aimed at Lion. Godfrey denied this.
Choice's comments will likely be welcomed by Parmalat Australia, which said in March 2013 that the digestive health benefits touted by the a2 milk brand were "denigrating normal milk."
“Consumers are confused,” Craig Garvin, CEO, Parmalat Australia, told the Australian Financial Review. “We get calls all the time.”
“It’s a bit of brand damage for the whole industry.”
In response, Peter Nathan, CEO Australia and New Zealand, the a2 Milk Company, suggested that competitive pressures may have played a part in Parmalat’s comments.
Parmalat Australia milk brand Paul “lost 10% of its value share in grocery over the past 12 months,” he said.
The a2 Milk Company later said its was "surprised" by reports Parmalat Australia had hired a PR firm to help discredit the science behind its products.