M&S’s first range of long-life skimmed, semi-skimmed and whole milk is being produced in the UK by Crediton Dairy, and is packaged in Tetra Pak’s 1-liter Tetra Brik Aseptic carton (pictured) which means it has a six-month shelf life without the need for refrigeration or preservatives.
Speaking to DairyReporter.com this morning, Andrew Smith, marketing manager, Tetra Pak UK & Ireland, agreed a shift was taking place from the days where long-life milk was unfashionable and unloved, consigned to a dingy back aisle in UK supermarkets.
“In terms of who we’d like to do business with, and in terms of it being an entirely new product for their range, it really is great news,” he said.
“It’s still a little bit like that, but we’re certainly seeing the first shoots of that perception changing. Talking of M&S, long-life milk is really relevant to their customers, who really get the benefits – longer shelf life, etc.,” Smith added.
Supply chain sees value in long-life
“What people are starting to understand now is that it’s not just a day-to-day milk,” he said. “Compared to chilled, white milk (where we’ve seen value driven out of the category), long-life milk has a much higher price per liter.”
Ambient milk cost 90p/liter in Tesco, Smith said, while 2 pints (1136ml) of chilled milk was 78p. “So there’s a value proposition [in long life] for both the retailer and the processor, and it works for the consumers as well.”
Smith said TV programmes like The Great British Bake Off and Food, Glorious Food had really driven home the news that long-life milk could be used in baking – or on other consumption occasions beyond chilled white milk – which was helping drive more positive perceptions in the UK.
“One of the big value drivers we’ll see in coming years will be the move to value-added. Value-added in the UK is behind markets such as Spain, where they’ve been able to change perceptions of consumers that milk can have added benefits, beyond calcium – Vitamin D, for instance, coming on board a bit more in the UK," he said.
Unlocking added-value in milk
Market-changing moves could involve lowering cholesterol, adding fiber, Smith said. “There are so many things you can do, and long-life milk is a much better way of doing that.
“Because, in chilled white milk, the prices are so low that the processors are all setup to do long runs – so changeovers on smaller runs to drive value-added are really difficult.”
Long-life milk allowed one to do that, Smith added, noting that long-life lines allowed processors greater flexibility and the ability to introduce added-value benefits.
He also agreed with the suggestion that aseptically packed, added-value milks should seek out listing in supermarket chilled cabinets in the future, to catch higher shopper footfall and benefit from higher prices.
“Where it will generate awareness is in the chilled area. Things like wastage are really paramount for retailers [where aseptic products have long shelf life] and things like value-added being paramount for consumers, that’ll be an area that won’t suddenly explode, but will develop as per Spain.”
In 1991 there was no added-value milk in Spain, Smith added, but it now accounted for around 80% of market value.