New Flavors ’Til the Cows Come Home

In a presentation at the annual Dairy Innovation Strategies conference in April, Patrik Hansson, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Arla Foods, a Danish dairy cooperative, called for the industry to refocus on bringing in new consumers and addressing the unhealthy eating habits of the global population. One of directions he recommended to achieve these goals was to forge more partnerships with companies outside the dairy industry as a means of becoming more culturally relevant.

Collaborations between the milk sector and licensed properties of all types have already started to happen, especially over the past five years. Most are for limited-edition products, but there are long-term deals in the mix as well. Some examples from around the world illustrate this trend:

  • In May of this year, the above-mentioned Arla paired with Mondelēz International for chocolate milk under the latter’s Milka brand, a leading player in chocolate in Europe. The product, which comes in Original Chocolate, Caramel, and Noisette flavors, was launched this month in Germany, Austria, and Poland. Milka has also lent its name to licensed ice cream, cakes, and other bakery goods.
  • truMoo paired with Disney/Lucasfilm in March 2024 for a limited-edition Blue Milk, timed to Imperial March, the month of Star Wars marketing that precedes Star Wars Day on May the 4th. Blue Milk, or Bantha Milk, comes from the planet of Tattooine and appeared in a scene in the original 1977 film. The Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge theme park already sells “blue milk,” but its version is a fruit smoothie rather than actual milk, while truMoo’s version, which was available in grocery stores in the U.S., was a vanilla-flavored milk with blue food coloring.
  • Milk Bar, the bakery chain known for its flavored Cereal Milk along with its nostalgic desserts and baked goods, collaborated in November 2023 with Got Milk? for a limited-edition Holiday Milk Collection in Apple Cider Donut, Pumpkin Cinnamon Milk, and Sugar Cookie flavors. The product was available in the chain’s bakeries, as well as in kit form online. Got Milk? is a brand of the California Milk Processor Board, represented by Beanstalk, that is licensed to milkPEP, the national Milk Processor Education Program, which was behind this initiative. Milk Bar is a frequent collaborator with other brands, but mostly for its baked goods rather than its flavored milks.
  • Bickford’s, a family-owned beverage maker, paired with McCormick Australia in May 2023 for a line of Aeroplane Jelly milks, in flavors including Raspberry Jelly, Lemon Jelly, and Mango Jelly. The product was sold exclusively through Woolworths stores in Australia and New Zealand. Aeroplane Jelly is Australia’s leading gelatin (a product similar to Jell-O in the U.S.). It is represented for outbound licensing by Asembl.
  • Australian milk marketer Breaka paired with Perfetti Van Melle in April 2023 for Chupa Chups milk in two flavors, Strawberry and Cream and Choco and Vanilla. The limited products were sold in Coles and Woolworths stores, as well as independent grocers, convenience stores, and gas stations, starting in April 2023. As is the case for Aeroplane Jelly, Perfetti Van Melle’s brands are represented for licensing in Australia and New Zealand by Asembl.
  • A2 Milk partnered with Hershey in late 2021 for co-branded chocolate milk. While Hershey has long had licensed chocolate milks as a key pillar of its licensing program around the world, this co-branding deal was billed as its first partnership with a premium milk company. The product has a good-for-you halo; A2’s milk comes from cows that naturally produce milk with only the A2 protein rather than both A1 and A2, which may make it easier on the stomachs of some consumers, the company says.
  • Babasal, an Argentinian dairy company, and its Mr. Choco milk brand collaborated with the Emoji Company back in 2020 for a line of branded milks, starting with Chocolate, Dulce de Leche, and Vanilla flavors, sold across South America.

There have been licensed milk deals in the past. H.P. Hood has long been a player in branded milks, for example, produced under license from the likes of Lactaid and Blue Diamond. But the frequency of licensing agreements and the diversity of licenses involved is on the upswing as milk brands try to differentiate themselves and generate consumer excitement in this mature, commodity category.

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