1. So Coca-Cola is getting into the milk business. Not the milk business as commodity milk, but the milk business as super-adulterated, premium-priced, “healthy” milk.  


The Coke marketing people looked at their deteriorating sales in an increasingly health-conscious marketplace, and didn’t like what they saw. They looked at the changing composition of the milk shelves, with the reduced space allotted to commoditized ultra-pasteurized Dean Foods type stuff, and the growing space going to locally produced pasteurized unhomogenized milk along with fancy containers of almond and soy milk, and said, “We want some of that.” 


No doubt they were also influenced by the nearby shelves full of protein powders and low-fat-natural-everything, in coming up with something called Fairlife. It is milk that has gone through additional processing beyond pasteurization and homogenization so as to add protein and remove sugars and fat. 


And in making super-processed Fairlife twice the price of regular processed milk, maybe they were influenced by the burgeoning sales of raw milk, which is typically sold for at least twice the price of the supermarket stuff based on its perceived health benefits. 


You have to respect Coke’s marketing acumen—it takes smart people to regularly sell billions of $2 cans of fizzy sugar water to the masses. And you have to wonder if Coke really understands the healthy food marketplace–despite the pretty photos of healthy active young people on the Fairlife web site–and the growing desire of more people for real food instead of real processed food. 


In connection with all this, there’s some intriguing data out of Penn State Extension suggesting that people who seek out raw milk do so because it goes through no processing. When researchers at Penn State Extension asked nearly 500 raw milk drinkers earlier in the year whether they would take their milk pasteurized but not homogenized, 86.5% said they would reject that option. Only 13% said they would even consider that possibility, with just 1% saying they welcomed the option. They “really want raw,” said Ernest Hovning, a professor at Penn State who presented the results at a recent day-long extension program sponsored by Penn State and The Raw Milk Institute. And the most commonly cited reason (by 90% of respondents) for preferring raw milk: “It’s better for me than pasteurized milk.” 


Not to suggest the raw milk drinkers are oblivious to safety concerns—nearly two-thirds either don’t serve raw milk to guests, or do so only after informing the guests. 


When it comes to assessing safety, the raw milk drinkers seemed to feel confident, with the respondents about evenly divided over whether twice-yearly state-mandated testing should be increased. Similarly, about half of respondents don’t bring along a cooler or ice packs for storing their milk on the drive home from picking up raw milk at a farm. 


Is the raw milk drinkers’ confidence misplaced? The Penn State researchers did basic tests of milk quality from 40 permitted Pennsylvania raw dairies—coliform counts and standard plate counts—and found the results “very variable from herd-to-herd and often within (the) herd.” There was “room for improvement in some/many herds!” Hovning reported. Indeed, the percentage of herds with less than 10 CFU/ml ranged from 30% to 70% of the herds tested. In other words, for some months, the number above 10 coliform was similarly from 30% to 70%. According to Hovning, this “may indicate increased probability of pathogen.” 


I doubt any of this is of interest to Coke. It’s been test marketing its new super processed milk in Minnesota, where a store manager reports it’s been tough to keep it in stock.  Most of the buyers are young people, 20 to 40 years old, the manager said—those influenced by health claims that include the higher protein and reduced sugar. He did note, however, that buyers have no way of knowing the milk is produced by Coke—there is no indication on the cartons, and the store isn’t talking. 


The Fairlife milk is due to go national next year, and a Coke executive was reported to predict the new milk would be “raining money” for Coke. Maybe so. Coke can throw a huge amount of ad dollars at the new stuff. Or maybe not when people discover not only how unnatural it is, but that it is produced by a company with a long history of producing products that keep people unhealthy.