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fairlife opens Ontario plant with 100% Canadian milk

Progressive Dairy Editor Lora Bender Published on 11 December 2020
fairlife representatives

Everyone loves a happy ending, but for fairlife in Canada, this is a happy beginning.

Founded by dairy producers Mike and Sue McCloskey, in partnership with Coca-Cola and Select Milk Producers, the brand decided to come to Canada a few years ago. Now with the plant construction complete, Carolyn Novick, director of fairlife for The Minute Maid Company Inc., Coca-Cola Limited (CCL), provides an update for Canadian dairy producers: “It’s been quite a phenomenal journey, and we’re very proud to be where we’re at right now with our plans.”

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As reported in the April 2019 issue of Progressive Dairy, Novick forecast they would be using 100% Canadian milk in 2020. Now, she is happy to report that as of September, this became a reality as the 1.5-litre ultrafiltered milks are made with milk sourced from Canadian dairy farms. She reports the $85 million facility in Peterborough, Ontario, is fully operational.

“We’ve completed the production of our 1.5-litre [bottles], which is our 2% white, 2% chocolate, whole and skim milk. That’s all out there now on store shelves, proudly displaying the Canadian maple leaf along with the Dairy Farmers of Canada Blue Cow logo to really ensure that people know it’s made with 100% Canadian milk,” Novick says.

Milk from Canadian farms

Back in April 2019, Novick indicated there may be additional dairy production requirements from Canadian dairy producers to meet the product’s standards, but this is no longer the case. The quality of milk currently produced in Canada met all of fairlife’s high standards required to make their ultrafiltered milk.

fairlife products

“We’ve learned a lot about the Canadian dairy system and have been working very closely with Dairy Farmers of Canada and Dairy Farmers of Ontario to have a better understanding of the system here. We are now taking milk from the general pool. We don’t need anything separate,” she says.

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Consumers and innovation

Novick says their products have been well received by consumers and are available at most grocery stores across Canada. “We’ve got a very solid distribution across Canada,” she explains. “We’re going to be looking to build our plant capacity with further expansion into Quebec and new distribution into the Maritimes.”

These new products are examples of innovation in the industry and a way to increase consumer interest in milk. “It’s a really good story for the farming community from an innovation perspective – it’s driving incremental growth of dairy,” Novick says.

It takes 1.5 litres of raw milk to make 1 litre of fairlife ultrafiltered milk. With Canadian milk running through their patented cold-filtration system, they can deliver to consumers the benefit of 50% less sugar and 50% more protein, lactose-free, nutrient-rich milk.

“We know that they’re enjoying the taste. We’re getting tremendous repeat rates that we are tracking through A.C. Nielsen. One thing I would like to share with the dairy community and dairy farmers is that fairlife is driving incremental growth for the [dairy] sector.”

A factsheet from fairlife reports the value-added dairy category in Canada is growing by 16%. The fairlife sales volume is growing in the high double digits, which makes it a top contributor to the category. “The easiest way to explain this is that for every 10 litres of fairlife sold, 7.3 litres were incremental to the dairy [milk] category,” Novick explains based on A.C. Nielsen research.

Another benefit for consumers is the longer shelf life of these products. Due to the unique filtration system and plastic bottle packaging – which protects the milk from air and light – their 1.5-litre bottles have a shelf life of 110 days from time of manufacture. “This is a real benefit to consumers, and you’re going to start to see more of that desire for consumers to have that longer shelf life,” Novick says. She notes that once the 1.5-litre bottles are opened, the product has around two weeks of shelf life and, like most milk, must remain chilled at all times. Their smaller, 240-millilitre bottles have a shelf life of nine months with the chocolate milk and six months with the white milk.

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The smaller bottles are filled aseptically (airtight) and because of that can be stored ambiently (at room temperature). Aseptic filling, which had been more common in European countries, is now happening more often in North America and is another value-added benefit for families who, for example, may like the option of sending milk to school with their children that does not need to be kept cool.

Supporting and promoting Canadian dairy

There is room for growth at the new Peterborough facility, with 30 jobs already created to date and 10 to 20 new jobs expected in the next year as sales grow. “We’re very new and just starting off, so we have a lot more capacity in our plant. One of the biggest opportunities for us is to spread the word and have people trying fairlife, so we can grow sales and operate at optimal capacity,” Novick states.

Their goal is to drive dairy sales through innovation and helping consumers become more aware of all the delicious ways milk can be enjoyed. “We’re going to be speaking to the dairy industry and consumers with our TV commercials and digital media. … We are very happy to talk about fluid milk and to get consumers thinking about how to enjoy it and more often,” Novick says.

“It’s been a very exciting three-year journey … I feel amazing that we have brought this innovation to Canada. We’ve built an 85-million-dollar plant. We’ve created jobs in the economy. It’s a long-term investment for us, and we are very grateful for all of the interest,” she says.  end mark

PHOTO 1: fairlife representatives and local dairy producers celebrate the opening of a new plant in Peterborough, Ontario, to process Canadian milk into innovative dairy products.

PHOTO 2: fairlife products in Canada showcase the Blue Cow logo, as they are now made with 100% Canadian milk. Photos courtesy of fairlife.

Lora Bender
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