- Tech & Gadgets
- BRW. lounge
Published 15 August 2012 05:45, Updated 15 August 2012 11:37
Each morning on my way to work I pass a sandwich board outside one of my local cafes; scrawled in chalk on both sides of the board it says “We use real milk in our coffee”.
I suspect the owner isn’t referring to soy.
He’s referring to milk free of permeate.
Twelve months ago, few people outside the dairy industry would have been able to define “permeate”, but now the average consumer knows all about that watery byproduct added to certain milks to standardise protein and fat content.
It’s fascinating to me that it’s come to this. We serve you a latte with no watery byproducts! Bonus.
During the so-called milk wars that started last year, consumers were simultaneously thrilled at being able to buy cheap private-label milk from the two big supermarkets and appalled at the idea these two big supermarkets might be putting undue pressure on dairy farmers. The lure of cheap milk generally prevailed.
Sympathy for the dairy farmers didn’t manage to change consumer attitudes significantly but the idea of a foreign substance in cheap milk has made an impact, at least on attitudes if not behaviour.
Now the big supermarkets are making moves to ensure all their milks are permeate-free. I am sure “permeate free” will appear on the modest packaging of private label once that happens.
The issue of permeates in milk shows how the rise of private labels can smack up against the slow but sure trend of “provenance”. Australian consumers across the board are asking searching questions about how our food is produced. And it goes beyond added “baddies” such as fats and salt and chemicals. It can also be about relatively “harmless” products like permeates, which nevertheless undermine the belief you are buying a pure product (and milk is the quintessential pure product).
Private label has the potential to grow and expand but as it does consumers are going to continue to scrutinise the quality and authenticity of those products in plain packaging. “No brand” doesn’t mean low expectations.