While the company has yet to announce plans to expand overseas, the decline of standard fresh milk and growth of the alternative dairy category suggest that Fairlife, a lactose-free, high-protein and high-calcium product which is being billed as a “high-end” milk alternative, would see sales success if it hit the UK.
Fairlife is set to fully debut in March in supermarkets, drugstores and convenience stores in the US, as well as major retailers Wal-Mart and Target, with plans to later hit food service outlets. The product went on sale in select supermarkets last week.
The company, which is pushing a $30m ad campaign for the brand, claims it will use the same strategy as its Minute Maid Simply Orange juice drink, which has seen recent US sales success. The price for an average bottle of the milk is said to be around $4.59, while the average for organic or regular milk is between $2.18 and $3.99 for a half-gallon.
The move is part of the company’s push to enter the dairy category, where it is largely underrepresented – the brains behind Fairlife also back Core Power, a high-protein milk shake which has been distributed by Coca-Cola since 2012, but the product is the only play into dairy for the company.
Minute Maid Fairlife is also a way for Coca-Cola to address changing tastes and health trends, which have recently seen a focus on high-protein products.
Through a separation process which divides the protein from the fat and lactose, the drink is said to provide 50% more protein, 30% more calcium and less sugar than regular milk and offers customers the choice of whole milk, fat-free, chocolate and reduced fat options, giving the brand an attractive proposition for consumers who are making drastic changes to the ways they drink milk and view protein.
Sandy Douglas, Coca-Cola’s global chief customer officer, said last year: “We’re going to be investing in the milk business for a while to build the brand, so it won’t rain money in the early couple of years. But like Simply, when you do it well, it rains money later.”
UK sees push of protein-enriched products
If Coca-Cola launches Fairlife in the UK, it will be the latest in a line of companies to tap into the demand for high-protein products.
Earlier this year, a report from market research company Canadean showed that half of UK consumers are now aware of the health benefits of protein, suggesting an opportunity for brands to introduce protein-enriched food and drinks.
A significant minority of respondents said they are upping their consumption by seeking out groceries that are high in protein. Further, one in ten are using protein supplements, but 68% of users said they would substitute their protein shakes for alternative protein sources, such as fortified food and drink products.
Meanwhile, sales of the standard fresh milk category declined by 6% year on year to 3 Jan 2015, while sales of fresh dairy alternatives saw growth of 30% in the same period, according to data from IRI.
Additionally, sales of challenger almond milk brands have seen substantial growth in the UK in the past two years, with sales of both Alpro Almond and Blue Diamond Almond Breeze climbing 111% year on year to 6 Dec.
Upbeat, a ready-to-drink dairy protein beverage, says it benefited from the growth of the category, which hit £16.7m in 2013 according to data from Euromonitor cited by the brand.
Mark Elderkin, head of marketing for Upbeat, says: “We’re enjoying our best ever sales month since the launch of the brand in 2013…by the end of January we will be at £3m RSV in sales.”
The data also suggests that the ready-to-drink protein market is set to climb to £51.7m over the next four years, according to Upbeat.
Outside of the milk category, the world’s first protein ice cream, Wheyhey!, has been introduced to the market, suggesting companies are starting to look at creative ways to introduce protein across categories.