Speaking with DairyReporter.com, Ulla Holm, director general, Tetra Laval Food for Development Office, said a new "generation of milk drinkers" has emerged in many developing markets as a result of the school milk programs it supports.
“If children start drinking milk in school they are going to drink it after school as well,” said Holm.
“For example, in Kenya, even when the school milk program ended in 1998, we could see a generation of milk drinkers had developed.”
“We see this over and over again,” she said. “It’s a catalyst to create a market for locally-produced milk."
The Tetra Laval Food for Development Office, which works with governments, development agencies, NGOs, local dairy processors, and farmers to support the development of school milk programs, was established in 2000.
The first Tetra Pak-supported school milk program was, however, launched in Mexico in 1962.
Last year, more than 50 years on, 64m children across 63 countries consumed 8.3bn Tetra Pak cartons of milk in school, and new programs were also launched with Tetra Pak's support in Myanmar, El Salvador, Ecuador, Uganda, and Latvia.
Looking back, Holm pinpointed school milk programs it supported in Thailand and China as two of the most successful.
"In Thailand, it now involves around 7m school children," she said, "and in China it's around 12m or 13m."
The majority of the school milk programs supported by Tetra Pak are government funded, which can cause problems when trying to break ground in new markets, said Holm.
“We keep contact with governments and local colleagues and continue to approach them,” she said. “The problem is funding - some governments just don’t have the funding.”
"And in some countries it is a long process because there are no processors in the country. Local processors have to be in place before we can offer any support."
This, however, does not deter Holm and her team.
"We are in discussions with a number of countries," she said, highlighting Cambodia and Ethiopia.
Alongside its school milk efforts, Tetra Pak supports the creation of supply chains in developing countries, where a large portion of locally-produced milk is never collected or processed.
Tetra Pak's Dairy Hub model links local dairy processors with small herd dairy farmers. This, according to Tetra Pak, reduces processors' reliance on milk powder and helps the suppliers move from subsistence farming to business.
Holm pinpointed Bangladesh, where it works with local processor PRAN, as its most successful Dairy Hub venture.
Between October 2010 and December 2013, the average milk yield per cow at the Chatmohar Dairy Hub increased by 80% from 4.75 litres to 8.5 litres.
In that time, milk collection also increased from 2,000 litres to 27,500 litres per day.
In the long-term, these efforts are profitable for all those involved, said Holm.
“If we can help local dairy processors develop a sustainable dairy business it will also be profitable for us," she said.