The a2 Milk Company has voiced disbelief following reports that its Australian fresh milk rival Parmalat hired a PR firm to help discredit the science behind its popular a2 dairy brand.
Scores of Australian media outlets, citing claims made by a whistleblower, reported this month that Pauls brand milk manufacturer Parmalat hired PR heavyweights Crosby Textor late last year to devise a media campaign against a2 milk.
Speaking with DairyReporter.com, Peter Nathan, CEO Australia and New Zealand, the a2 Milk Company, said he was shocked to hear about the campaign against its a2 milk products.
“We were certainly very surprised to find that a competitor would go to such lengths to attempt to discredit us, as we have been a very positive influence on the dairy industry, as many people who have trouble drinking ordinary milk have re-engaged with dairy when they have made the switch to a2 milk," said Nathan.
“The fresh milk category in total continues to grow in both volume and value in Australia, and given our very strong growth rate of 1200% in seven years we are confident that we have been a strong contributor of that growth.”
a2 milk, which is also marketed in New Zealand and the UK, is rich in A2 beta casein protein but contains no A1 beta casein protein, which has been linked to digestive discomfort.
Dairy cows typically produce milk containing both proteins, but a2 milk is sourced from specially selected dairy cows that produce milk containing only the A2 protein.
Since its launch in Australia in 2007, a2 milk has grown to become the best selling premium supermarket milk brand Down Under - controlling around 8% of all fluid milk sales in terms of value.
It's been suggested that the PR campaign against a2 milk is an effort by Parmalat to win back milk market share for its Pauls brand milk.
Australian media outlets have also linked the campaign against a2 milk to Parmalat's recent relaunch of its premium Pauls Zymil lactose-free milk brand.
Are consumers confused?
In March, the a2 Milk Company slammed claims made by Parmalat CEO, Craig Garvin, that its a2 milk concept has left consumers Down Under confused.
Speaking with the Australian Financial Review in March, Garvin said that the digestive health benefits touted by the a2 milk brand were “denigrating normal milk.”
“Consumers are confused. We get calls all the time,” said Garvin.
“It’s a bit of brand damage for the whole industry,” he added.
Speaking with DairyReporter.com then, a2 milk chief Nathan denied that Australian consumers were baffled by its “very straightforward proposition."
“If a2 milk was confusing to consumers they would not be buying it,” said Nathan at the time.