Today the SMH reports on consumer power versus corporate power. The Berry Rural Co-operative Society, one of Australia’s smallest rural co-operatives producing fresh milk, is not suffering greatly from the supermarket milk price war.
The coop’s South Coast Dairy brand is on the receiving end of local loyalty.
Eight dairy farms from the south NSW coast around Berry sell milk from Wollongong to the Victorian border.
Since Coles slashed its generic brand milk price to $1 a litre in late January, they are finding support so strong that sales have only dropped significantly in one Nowra supermarket.
The co-op’s chairman, Paul Timbs, says:
”We haven’t seen any major decline in milk sales, other than an individual store here or there. We have heard a lot of comments from people that they are happy to boycott Coles – they are disillusioned with the scenario.
In many markets, whether it is meat or milk, there is a definite trend to buy local.
[People] have confidence in where it comes from. It’s where we aimed our market and it seems to be working. I think it will be a pitfall for Coles. They are going totally the wrong way about obtaining custom.
[The co-op] says that because they do little processing, their milk tastes better and has none of the frothing problems coffee lovers have reported with the generic brand.
The big companies do a lot more to milk than we do.. they take it all down to skim and only put back what they think you need.
The co-operative has neither the desire nor the equipment to strip out many of the components of milk and then put back the thin liquid, called permeate, like the big processors.”
The deputy chairman of the NSW Dairy Board, Terry Toohey, says regional residents are well aware of the knock-on economic effect if local milk processors suffered a fall in business because of cheap supermarket products.
Sales of the local product has only dropped at the Coles store in Nowra – by 20%! – but Paul Timbs says this is due to South Coast Dairy milk being removed from the supermarket’s ‘grab zone’, where customers in a hurry pick up staples.
The Mercury Centre specialises in building collaborative enterprises through consultancy, research, information, advice and training. Alan Greig, Ownership Strategies Director, says:
“Local ownership of dairy assets is translating into ‘localism’ through purchasing choices – the best way to take on Coles and Woolies in my view.”
As the Ethical Consumer group says there is a war is going on between Consumer Power and Corporate Power.
Companies need our money to stay in business.
Money talks, and your dollar is your vote.
In the face of the truly awful populist politics everywhere at the moment, how breathtakingly refreshing to see human behaviour you can be proud of.