Dairy Crest, attempting to promote its British-made Country Life butter, has launched adverts across the country showing rival brand Anchor butter travelling 11,000 miles on a rusty ship from New Zealand. A farmhouse cottage below this represents Country Life production.
The advert was an attempt to target growing consumer concern over 'food miles', and increased demand for fresh products.
Rising demand for locally sourced food in the UK is shown by the rapid growth of farmers' markets over the last few years. There were 550 markets operating last year, making a combined £220m in sales, according to organic food promoters the Soil Association.
Support for the sentiment in Dairy Crest's Country Life ads has also grown in the UK dairy industry over the last week.
Gwyn Jones, head of dairy at the National Farmers' Union (NFU), said the union was "totally behind" the campaign.
"It's good to see a prominent brand stimulating thought and debate about food miles," Jones said. "Buying British instead of imported foods not only helps to support British farmers and the local economy, but is also better for the environment. What's more, food that hasn't travelled halfway around the globe is bound to be fresher."
Anchor is owned by New Zealand dairy co-op Fonterra and sold under licence in Britain by Arla Foods UK.
The brand leads Britain's butter, spreads and margarine market with an 8.7 per cent share, according to Arla. And the firm recently forecast new Anchor Lighter Spreadable would see more strong growth this year, after a successful 2005.
The support for the Country Life campaign may, therefore, also reflect growing concerns that homemade British dairy products are losing out to imports on the country's added value market.
Economists at the UK Milk Development Council warned recently that Britain's dairy trade deficit jumped up 20 per cent in 2005 to £893m.
They said one example of the problem was that Britain continued to export butterfat as low value cream and then import expensive butter brands, such as Lurpak or Anchor.