Coles and Woolworths feel the heat as shoppers flock to supermarkets in search of brand name milk

milk

Coles and Woolworths are feeling the heat from disgruntled customers who are unable to find brand name milk in their local supermarket amid the dairy crisis.

Australians are flocking to buy brand name milk from the big supermarkets after the country’s largest milk producer, Murray Goulburn, downgraded the price it will pay farmers.

The news, along with a decrease in milk prices worldwide, has prompted a public campaign urging people to buy more dairy products to support local businesses doing it tough.

Read more: “Root cause” of dairy crisis needs to be tackled if farming businesses are to remain healthy in the long term

But the uptake in demand appears to have led to branded milk disappearing from supermarket shelves, with photos surfacing online of sparse shelves with only homebrand milk left.

Many people have accused Coles and Woolworths of withholding brand name milk from customers until the cheaper, white label products are sold, with both companies’ Facebook pages inundated with angry posts.

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“Order in enough Dairy Farmers, Paul’s, Maleny Dairies or Norco Full cream and low fat milk to meet demand,” one person wrote on Coles’ Facebook page.

“Stop with the cheap milk and support our farmers,” another woman wrote.

The accusations have put the supermarkets on the back foot.

Coles, for example, has been individually tackling the rumours it’s been withholding brand-name milk from customers on Twitter.

“We assure you this is not true,” Coles told one customer.

“We haven’t made any changes to the way we re-stock milk and always aim to provide choice.”

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A spokesperson for Coles told SmartCompany the supermarket has not made any changes to the way it replenishes its milk range.

“Our goal is to provide our customers with choice at prices they can trust,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

“That’s why we sell a number of brands of milk across Australia.”

A spokesperson for Woolworths told SmartCompany it is working hard to meet demand.

“We are stocking proprietary milk brands the same way this week as we have done in previous weeks,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

“We always aim to have our shelves stocked with the products our customers want to buy.”

However, crisis communications expert Nicole Matejic told SmartCompany the current situation is “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” for the big supermarkets.

“Even if they got on the front foot, created some content or a video with some products, people would accuse them of stage managing it,” Matejic says.

But Matejic says the major supermarket brands have a “real opportunity” to get behind Australian farmers.

“Australian farmers are, by and large, what keep them in business; the home brand milk doesn’t magically appear,” she says.

“It’d be such a PR win for them to say, ‘you’re absolutely right, we need to do more, and we’re changing the processes’.”

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the wordmistress
4 years ago

As a consumer who has variously purchased both branded and $1/L milk, I acknowledge that I’ve been part of the problem. But it’s heartening to see such a campaign being waged by the public and I hope it only gains momentum so that those who can afford to buy branded, continue to do so. As for Coles and Woolworths, I don’t know that they do see this as an opportunity. Their thinly-veiled warm and fuzzy social media presence would suggest otherwise as they appear to be still in defensive mode. Anyway, the day we start importing such a fundamental as milk is the day it’s all over for Australian agriculture. We’re already ploughing oranges back into the dirt, ripping out hectares of orchards and repurposing crop fields for grazing fields. The farmer is the last person deserving of blame.

disqus_6688VF3IVf
disqus_6688VF3IVf
4 years ago

Don’t believe the hype.. Coles & Woolies are not to blame for this current issue http://www.afr.com/brand/rear-window/waleed-aly-herald-sun-campaign-confuse-milk-issue-20160523-gp1rjj

Bid Bow
Bid Bow
4 years ago

WRONG, the supermarkets are largely to blame for this – they’ve greatly contributed to the dairy crisis ( just the latest ag sector to collapse ) Before that they destroyed citrus, stone fruits, meats and vegetable growers. The supermarkets have brought Australia’s food sector to its knees. Their bullying, late payments and unilaterally cutting of prices have ruined many food businesses and suppliers. Our beef farm was one of them – having to accept prices the same as my father was paid in 1980 = $1.0 pkg ( 1 postage stamp ). How many other business were being forced to accept the same price they were paid 35 years ago? And that’s the power the supermarkets have, and why 25,000 farming families have gone tits-up since 2000.

TLouise
TLouise
4 years ago
Reply to  Bid Bow

Please note that I was referring to the ‘current’ issue regarding the dairy price drop, not the entire farming industry as a whole. The dairy industry is a global commodity, affected by global markets. When there is too much supply in the GLOBAL market (which there is) then prices have to come down, economics 101 Bid Bow… Supermarkets are not to blame, it is Murray Goulburn’s owner investors i.e. the dairy farmers themselves. This article will explain what I mean: http://adf.farmonline.com.au/news/magazine/industry-news/general/bega-chief-blasts-mg/2752722.aspx

Bid Bow
Bid Bow
4 years ago
Reply to  TLouise

Garbage TLouise. I’m an Ag Scientists and farmer and I’ve seen what Coles and Woolworths have done these past 10 years. Woolworths and the Tesco management scum running Coles have used milk as a loss leader to get people into their stores. They then pushed the losses back onto Fonterra and G.M. I know, I saw it happen! Coles did the same to citrus and stone fruit growers, canned vegetable suppliers who are now all gone, SPC canned products and then Tamar Valley Dairy. Tesco run Coles abuse their market position by demanding product below the cost of production. It you don’t give it to them you can’t sell anything and then you go broke faster. Coles and Woolworths are why Aussie Ag is on its knees AND why so many farmers have suicided by blowing their brains out. Coles and Woolworths have oceans of farmers’ blood on their filth greedy hands

TLouise
TLouise
4 years ago
Reply to  Bid Bow
dean
dean
4 years ago

I seen on A Current Affair years ago that wool worths milk and coles milk is powder milk., and once you’ve notice this you never buy the supermarket branded food. Why is so much hidden on the labels of food anyway, why call it sodium if its salt ? why on the label under ingredients I see all this weird numbers with no explanation of what it is, like (635) (320) oh that’s right its chemicals the unfortunate reality is customer’s put there trust in supermarkets and the majority of the food supply and its filled with chemicals
use do not care about ones health only profit.

Rohan
Rohan
4 years ago

As well intentioned as this public campaign is, there is also the real danger it could exacerbate the dire financial situation that some farmers will face. In particular, the farmers that supply Murray Goulburn exclusively and Murray Goulburn itself could easily be bankrupted within a few months.

The general public are largely ignorant on how business works, and this could destroy a lot of lives. Don’t make a bad situation worse.

Keir
Keir
4 years ago
Reply to  Rohan

Really after Murray Goulburn is trying to take money back from the farmers by saying they owe debts, it is not the farmers fault it is murray goulburn and they deserve to tank.

T
T
4 years ago
Reply to  Keir

And kill off 2600 farmers while we’re at it – have a read Keir – http://www.mgc.com.au/financial/facts-and-figures/ – they state ‘we process over one-third of Australia’s milk volume and export close to half our product each year’. Once they tank, there goes Australia’s largest dairy foods company & Coles/Woolies take the blame.

T
T
4 years ago

This is legitimately hilarious, watching all these people rant to Coles & Woolies on Facebook and everyone is cynical in why they won’t respond, why they’re out of stock of ‘branded’ milk and why they won’t give farmers a go – and don’t bother to investigate a little further to find out why – because its easier to have a rant, simply because a gold logie winner suggested it was the right thing to do.

Wanna know why? It’s because they have not been the cause of this current crisis and the dairy farmers are smarter than us gullible, mainstream media consuming, city lot. It’s turned out to be a perfect opportunity to slam Colesworth when they knew we would buy it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s brilliant. While they don’t even have a tiny smidgen to answer for in this CURRENT milk price crisis, they do have to work out how to communicate how they’re not involved, without looking like a-holes. OUCH!

The real issue is that us city folk don’t know what ‘milk solids’ are, nor the amount that gets exported out of Australia. We know milk as milk. Simple.

Well the fact is that 40% of all milk production in Australia is EXPORTED. Here’s another fun fact: Only 6% (yes, a measly 6%) of Victorian dairy produced is for the Australian market. The 94% left over is specifically produced for the export market, mainly as milk solids – you know, the stuff that is mentioned in every single article as being the real ‘worldwide oversupply’ issue at play here.

It’s not the fresh milk prices that Coles/Woolies pay, it’s the export of milk solids that are up sh*t creek. There we go, i’m sure i’ve lost a few city folk to bother reading any further, let alone even care…
For those still with me… Milk solids are in global oversupply because NZ export 95% of their production & Europe have been given free reign on their exports for the first time in 30 years. Combine this crazy ‘supply’ with a weakened demand in China for the stuff, where everyone is trying to palm it off to = we have a simple spill over into the market. Murray Goulburn thought we could ride high prices, but soon realised left it too late to bring them down in a timely and gradual manner to reflect the realistic global scene.

If you’re still with me. I have to let you in on a secret. I don’t even consume the stuff, so why do I care, why did I want to know more? I’m NOT vegan or a dairy industry basher. My toddler is extremely allergic to the stuff, so we have to avoid milk, cheese, yoghurt & especially these ‘milk solids’ that are in absolutely everything – take a look in your pantry, it is listed in nearly every single item you have in there.

So, ‘Milk solids’ nestled in the headlines naturally caught my eye. I had to know more, find out what the real issue was with the global oversupply and what I’ve outlined so far is what I discovered. NZ is feeling the pain, as are the UK – because its a GLOBAL ISSUE!

Coles & Woolies have nothing to do with it, but it makes for an interesting way to shift the blame and help the dairy farmers that aren’t even exposed to the export market to get a leg up – lucky for them they don’t supply, nor owe anything back to Murray Goulburn.

What a PR nightmare..

Brittain Ladd
Brittain Ladd
4 years ago

Coles and Woolworths seem to generate a tremendous amount of interest. This article will help explain the situation Woolworths is currently facing: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/beautiful-way-save-woolworths-brittain-ladd?trk=mp-author-card

Michael
Michael
4 years ago

id love to support MALENY Dairies milk but there too expensive for us $4.55 for 2ltrs we cant afford it, if they sold it for the same price or near the same price as the Coles/Woolworths milk id buy we can only afford 1$ a ltr maybe 1.10 a ltr it we only use 3ltrs a week and we love the fact they put the Christian fish on there milk bottles… being Pensioners we just afford it even though we really want to support you guys.. if ya can get ya price down to $1 a ltr we would buy it all the time..