I consider the following announcement very good news for the dairy industry!
On January 3, 2020 Coca-Cola Company announced that it has acquired the remaining stake in fairlife, LLC from its joint venture partner Select Milk Producers. Coca-Cola now owns 100% of fairlife, up from its 42.5% minority stake.
Why is this good news? Obviously Coca-Cola Company is a major player not only in carbonated beverages, but also in juices, sparkling water, bottled water, teas and other beverages. It is good news that they include milk-based drinks to their portfolio. It is great news that they have taken the next step in owning 100% of fairlife and thus making a commitment to expand on their marketing of milk-based drinks.
It is also great news that they did NOT abandon fairlife due to the accusations of animal abuse that surfaced at Fair Oaks Farms last year. Fair Oaks Farms owners were involved in developing the fairlife milk and brand. Fair Oaks Farms was therefore a supplier of milk to fairlife. When the animal abuse stories erupted, it was feared that Coca-Cola may pull out of the fairlife joint venture to remain insulated from the claims.
Fortunately, the animal abuse was found to be done by only a few employees. Plus, Fair Oaks owners responded quickly and positively to remove those employees, establish new training programs and install monitoring devices throughout in order to avoid any future incidents. They also filed criminal lawsuits against those employees. It was quick and decisive moves by ownership to identify the problem, create solutions and inform the public of their sincere determination to eliminate all possible abuse problems and maintain a safe, high quality operation.
According to a recent interview with fairlife CEO Tim Doehlman and Coca-Cola North America President Jim Dinkins, fairlife, LLC also addressed this situation. When asked about the reports, Mr. Doehlman stated, “We knew we had to use this unfortunate incident to push for better. We immediately discontinued the use of all milk from this supplying farm and conducted multiple independent audits of all our supplying dairies.” He also added, “To guide this journey, we’ve assembled a fairlife Animal Welfare Advisory Council to ensure we are both learning and leading for the short-and long-term. We’re working with our supplying farmers across the United States to outline more detailed animal welfare policies and protocols for any farm supplying farilife.” (Source: Coca-Cola Company website, fairlife news)
What is fairlife?
“Fairlife, LLC was founded in 2012 to produce nourishing and great-tasting milk beverages made using a patented cold-filtration process that removes some natural sugars while concentrating the protein and calcium naturally found in real cows’ milk. The line of delicious, lactose-free fairlife products includes: fairlife ultra-filtered milk, which has 50% more protein and 50% less sugar than regular milk; fairlife with DHA, ultra-filtered milk with DHA Omega-3 fatty acids to support brain health; fairlife YUP!, a line of flavored milks; fairlife CorePower High Protein Shakes, a sports nutrition drink to support post-workout recovery; fairlife smart snacks, a drinkable snack to help curb hunger between meals; fairlife nutrition plan, a nutrition shake to support one’s journey to better health; and the newly launched fairlife creamers, coffee creamers designed to help enhance your coffee experience.” (Source: Coca-Cola Company website)
Fairlife, LLC is now part of Coca-Cola Company in their Juice, Dairy and Plant-based beverages. The division includes brands such as “Minute-Maid”, “Simply Orange”, “Innocent” (smoothies, coconut water juice and kids drinks) and “AdeS” (soy based drinks developed in Argentina include soy, coconut and almond drinks with fruit juices). (Source: Coca-Cola website)
Why is this acquisition important for the dairy industry?
Fluid milk sales have been declining for several years as consumers look for alternative, healthy drinks. The onslaught of nut-based drinks, which to date are marketed as “milk” products has filled the category. Fortunately, the value-added dairy products such as fairlife, have grown in market share and continue to expand. People are looking for better taste and more nutrition in the foods they choose—and the dairy category is no exception.
If the dairy industry is to expand vs. continuing to decline in consumption, products such as fairlife will be needed. The industry must continue to develop new products that appeal to consumers tastes, provide healthy alternatives, and assist the consumers in their quest for a healthy lifestyle.