What MG’s announcement means in plain English

This is a post written purely for my fellow dairy farmers in light of the MG announcement today. After speaking with the people at MG, this is what I have learnt:

Why the price must fall
MG opened at $5.60/kgMS. Its lower than expected sales, the rising Australian dollar and the fall in the value of its larger than normal (which are routinely high anyway) inventories mean it has a shortfall of between $170 and $200 million. This means the price paid to farmers must fall.

How far the price must fall
Depending on how the last two months of this financial year pan out in terms of sales and exchange rates, Murray Goulburn will finish the season between $4.75 and $5.00.

But the price can’t fall that far in two months…
To do that, it would need to pay farmers virtually nothing for milk supplied in May and June. Some rough numbers sent to me by an industry analyst puts those figures at about 4.75 cents per litre. Clearly, that would be disastrous for many suppliers. It would also cripple MG because farmers would have little choice but to leave MG and supply any other processor that would take their milk.

…so, here’s what will happen
MG will pay farmers for milk supplied in May and June as if the price was $5.47 all along. In other words, the price for May milk will be $3.38 for fat and $7.42 for protein. For June’s milk, it will be $3.45 for fat and $7.59 for protein.

If MG’s sales and the currency fall in line with the worst case scenario and MG really should have paid farmers just $4.75 for the year, it will mean there is a shortfall of 47 cents for every kilogram of fat and $1.03 for every kilogram of protein.

This money will be deducted from the price paid to farmers evenly over the next three years. It means the milk price will be lower for each of the next three years than it otherwise would have been by about 15 cents for fat and 34 cents for protein.

But it’s NOT a debt carried by individual farmers
The money to be deducted over the next three years will simply come out of the milk price. If a farmer leaves MG and moves to a different supplier during the next three years, no debt will follow that farmer. If a farmer joins MG in the next three years, that farmer will have a lower milk price than they would have received in a normal year.

MG will not apply a loan against an individual supplier and will not respectively apply terms and conditions to suppliers.

About this post and me:
I am a former MG supplier who still holds some MG shares and currently supply Fonterra Australia. This post is not designed to do anything other than clarify confusion surrounding the situation because I am fearful for the mental health of my fellow farmers. This post has been checked by MG for accuracy.

 

 

MG responds to questions about Devondale

Devondale logo

After the publication of yesterday’s post, Murray Goulburn’s Robert Poole has this afternoon responded to Milk Maid Marian’s questions following the Financial Review’s commentary on Devondale’s sales performance. They are included here in full.

Q1: Are the figures quoted in the Financial Review a fair representation of Devondale’s sales performance?
A: MG considers that the data represented in the Rear Window opinion piece in the Australian Financial Review is selective and as a result has the potential to be misleading to readers. MG does not consider that it is a fair representation of Devondale.

Q2: To quote from the Fin Review: “According to Murray Goulburn, a big upside of the Coles deal was that it would ‘drive significant growth in sales for [its] core Devondale milk and cheese brands in the years ahead’”
A: MG has consistently stated that the underlying basis for the Coles contract was to enter the private label daily pasteurised milk market. This statement was made on 10 April 2013 when MG announced its entry into the landmark 10 year contract and again on 3 July 2014 when announcing the commencement of supply to Coles under that agreement. MG launching the Devondale branded daily pasteurised milk and Devondale Cheese into Coles (after a nine year absence) was separate to the underlying business case of supplying private label daily pasteurised milk to Coles. The supply of Devondale daily pasteurised milk and supply of Cheese was not the basis for entering into the Coles contract.

Q3 How do actual Devondale sales figures compare to the budgets set when the plants were planned?
A: Sales are in line with business plans.

Q4: Does Murray Goulburn continue to enjoy “preferred supplier status” with Woolworths?
MG does not comment on its relationship with customers.

Q5: How have the Devondale sales at Woolworths compare with those at Coles?
A: This information is commercially confidential. MG is proud to be a supplier to total Grocery and Foodservice trade, and works with all customers to grow the business and maximise returns to farmers

Q6: Does MG plan to review its product mix or marketing strategy in light of Devondale’s sales performance?
A: MG has a balanced portfolio across international and domestic markets, ingredients, Private label and branded products. Like any strong business, MG is managing this portfolio to maximise the returns to Farmers, as evidenced by the current farmgate price.

Q7: How does Devondale’s sales performance compare with other areas of MG’s business?
A: In 2014/15 Devondale is one of the leading growth and profit divisions for MG

The trouble with the MG and “Gary the Great” sideshow

Murray Goulburn’s colourful managing director, Gary Helou, is not universally loved and he’s become a bit of a target over the last year or so.

Some dairy farmers are nervous about his proposed transformation of the much-loved 100% farmer-owned co-operative into a “farmer-controlled” hybrid or are alienated by his brash, bullish style.

Some of his competitors hate him for driving up the price of raw milk (which is, of course, his mandate) and they also deeply resent this Devondale ad:

Given that Gary himself is a suit-wearing Sydney-sider who flies in weekly to MG’s Melbourne headquarters where a large corporate Mercedes Benz awaits him in the basement, he could be accused of a little hypocrisy.

So the acerbic commentary from the Financial Review directed at the so-called “Gary the Great” generates plenty of sniggers, including yesterday’s piece, which was republished outside the pay wall in The Land.

The article reveals a series of sales figures that suggest sales of MG’s Devondale branded products have tanked disastrously, followed by an observation that:

“When Helou locked Murray Goulburn into a decade of skinny margins supplying Coles with its $1 milk, his rationale was that it would lead to growth in his branded products and thus higher margins for his farmers.”

“But the growth has not transpired, which means the margins are on borrowed time – especially as Helou juggles significant debt covenants, tries to raise $500 million in new capital and wears major cost blowouts getting his new processing facilities online.”

Are the figures fair? I asked dairy industry analyst, Steve Spencer of Freshagenda, about the data quoted in the story.

“The figures are sourced from retail scan sales data reports, which are expensive and normally only purchased by some of the larger supermarket suppliers,” Steve explained.

“The figures supplied to the Financial Review are current and specific and certainly not publicly available, so the data was most likely leaked by a competitor. It’s unlikely that any of the figures were inaccurate but could have been used selectively to paint a certain picture or the columnist’s agenda.”

But if the article is fair, it’s worrying news for MG farmer shareholders. I invited MG’s Robert Poole to answer a series of questions to set the record straight:

  • Are the figures quoted in the Financial Review a fair representation of Devondale’s sales performance?
  • To quote from the Fin Review: “According to Murray Goulburn, a big upside of the Coles deal was that it would ‘drive significant growth in sales for [its] core Devondale milk and cheese brands in the years ahead’”. To what degree does the profitability of the Melbourne and Sydney plants rely on the sale of Devondale products?
  • How do actual Devondale sales figures compare to the budgets set when the plants were planned?
  • Does Murray Goulburn continue to enjoy “preferred supplier status” with Woolworths?
  • How have the Devondale sales at Woolworths compare with those at Coles?
  • Does MG plan to review its product mix or marketing strategy in light of Devondale’s sales performance?
  • How does Devondale’s sales performance compare with other areas of MG’s business?

Robert pointed me to a media release on MG’s website released later in the day. Unfortunately, it does not answer the questions. Instead, it plays the man rather than the ball, providing any genuinely concerned farmer shareholder little comfort.

Are the criticisms of Gary Helou and MG simply sour grapes or dirty competitive tactics? I hope so but it seems only time will tell. This is the tragedy of the “Gary the Great” sideshow: it all descends into an ugly bun-fight in which, ultimately, the farmer is the loser.

EDIT: I HAVE WOKEN TO AN EMAIL FROM ROBERT POOLE INDICATING THAT HE WILL BE PLEASED TO ANSWER THE QUESTIONS TODAY (20/02/2015).

Bittersweet as Devondale milk reaches Coles shelves

Photo: The Weekly Times


Three men in suits – a prime minister, supermarket supremo and the MD of a dairy processor – stood drinking glasses of frothy cold milk on the steps of the first MG Co-op factory dedicated to supplying fresh Devondale-branded and private label milk to Coles. Beneath the froth, however, doubt among the very dairy farmers sponsoring the opening celebrations continues to simmer and bubble.

Ever since the Coles deal was announced, there have been skeptics. Plenty question whether it is possible to make money supplying milk that retails at a dollar a litre and the concept alone that milk could be priced cheaper than water offends many dairy farmers.

The speculation and anger reached new heights this week, however, after a scathing opinion piece in the Australian Financial Review that says MG managing director, “Helou ‘in a hurry’ has a reputation at MG, as he did at SunRice, for being hell bent on revenue over margins.”

The AFR also writes, “MG’s margins are non-existent and its deal has locked the whole industry into $1 milk for a whole, punishing decade, structurally squeezing the profit pool.”

All that gloom follows the journalist’s derisory comments about the Sydney factory being at least one month late, $30 million over budget and the trigger for contractual penalties that can only be imagined. And, yes, when the deal was announced, MG’s farmer shareholders were promised the factories would cost “just” $120 million. MG now puts that figure at $160 million, hinting at a cost blow-out of staggering proportions.

To top it all off, Coles ads pimping our cherished, premium Devondale-branded milk at just 75 cents per litre sent shockwaves through the Australian dairy community on Twitter yesterday.

This ad went viral on Twitter for all the wrong reasons

This ad went viral on Twitter for all the wrong reasons

So, I sent a list of questions off to MG’s executive general manager shareholder relations, Robert Poole, who to his great credit offered these explanations:

Q. What are the actual costs of the two factories?
A. Following our initial cost estimates for the two factories we decided to invest in additional capability and capacity to maximise efficiencies through automation and layout. This brought the total investment in our Melbourne and Sydney facilities to approximately $160 million. This provided for future operational cost savings.

Q. Has MG been unable to supply milk to Coles on time?
A. We have had some shortfalls, however contingency plans were promptly enacted . Laverton is ramping up towards its full capacity and at the moment is servicing Coles requirements in Victoria plus the Devondale Brand both in Victoria and NSW. Our NSW plant remains scheduled to commence production in early August, at which time MG expects to be able to be supplying all of Coles requirements in Victoria and NSW

Q. If so, what are the penalties?
A. This is a contractual matter between MG and Coles.

Q. Does MG have adequate raw milk supply for the Sydney factory now?
A. In New South Wales, we have already sourced more than 180 million litres of milk. This is more than enough to cover our initial requirements of approximately 100 million litres per annum in this market and allows for future growth.

Q. When do you expect the Sydney facility to be supplying milk Coles with its full requirement of milk?
A. The site is being commissioned through July with production scheduled to commence early August, reaching full capacity by the end of August.

Q. When will the investment break even?
A. Both sites are forecast to add positively to MG’s farmgate price from year 1.

If the Murray Goulburn deal with Coles can withstand a 33% cost-overrun and Coles’ penalties while adding to the milk price from year one, this must be an extraordinarily lucrative contract indeed. Who would have thought the Down, Down, Down folks could be so generous?

While you’re chewing that over, take a minute to look at the new Devondale ads via my fellow dairy blogger Lynne Strong, who tells me her post discussing the commercials has gone viral attracting around 1500 views in 24 hours. MG cannot be accused of being boring!

Devondale’s new TV ads spread the love, but who to?

Well, you saw it here first. MG’s new ads will air on TV from tonight but they’re already up on its Devondale website.

I can’t help but wonder if this ad is a direct consequence of the much-despised Dev and Dale commercials that presented the co-op’s own farmer-shareholders as bogans. The deeply unpopular ads set MG directors’ phones alight and were pulled early in response.

Watching it reminds me of Dairy Australia’s own embryonic Legendairy campaign and even the Dodge “God Made a Farmer” Super Bowl ad that unashamedly pandered to a despairing target audience in desperate need of some moral support.

What do you think? Will this ad sell more Devondale cheese, milk and butter? Is it just too cynical of me to suggest that perhaps I and my fellow dairy farmers are the real targets? Or maybe it’s not me they have in mind but the NSW suppliers MG needs to woo in order to meet its Sydney Coles contract.

While you’re having a think about it, check out another new Devondale product ad!

Has the MG co-op fed Aussie dairy farmers to the wolves?

If $1 milk is unsustainable, how is the Coles deal locking in pricing with Murray Goulburn a good thing? Good question. Has MG made a giant mistake? Will it mean a mass exodus by NSW dairy farmers and will the big co-op do its socks on the deal, taking the hopes of dairy farmers down, down, down with it? Blair Speedy of The Australian certainly seems to think so.

I decided to ask some rather blunt questions of two men in the know: independent dairy analyst, Jon Hauser of Xcheque and Murray Goulburn big-wig and general manager shareholder relations, Robert Poole.

1. How can MG make a profit supplying fresh milk to Coles if Lion could not?
Robert Poole refused to comment on Lion’s circumstances but said the co-op’s new factories would be “purpose-built, state of the art and the most efficient milk processing plants in Australia”.

“We will make a good return supplying Coles and will have the capacity to supply other customers in time, too, making even higher returns.”

Jon Hauser goes further. “I can see how 10 cents per litre in costs can readily be taken out of the chain,” he says. “There is a view in the dairy community that milk should be sold for more than a dollar per litre when it’s being sold cheaper than that right now in the USA and the United Kingdom. The local processors have been retaining much more of the milk dollar than international processors.”

2. What risk is there to the $120 million of farmers’ funds that will be spent on the new factories?
Poole says quite flatly that the cost of the factories is well and truly covered by the 10-year Coles contract: “We have total security. There will be no cross-subsidisation of this investment – it will be fully funded by the agreement with Coles.”.

3. Why hasn’t MG sold fresh milk into supermarkets before?
“Historically, we would have had to submit a tender for milk supply. And what, build factories in the hope that we won?,” says Poole. “This was a golden opportunity. Nobody gets a 10-year contract like this but Coles came to Murray Goulburn because it wanted to work with farmers.”

4. How does it work for MG?
According to Poole: “Under the supply agreement, the price to Coles is based on a farm-gate price and the cost of processing plus a comfortable profit margin. There’s a rise and fall clause that means the price reflects the changing value of the milk on international markets.”

Hauser explains that the New Zealand and Australian dairy industries are “price takers”, unlike the Europeans and Americans, who have greater control over pricing.

“Australia can’t control the export price but, reading between the lines, Murray Goulburn is using the Coles deal to increase its control over the price it gets for its milk and will position itself for a much greater role in the 2 billion-litre fresh milk market. Because MG will slash the cost of delivering fresh milk to supermarkets, I predict the co-op will be selling supermarkets a billion litres of fresh milk a year by 2023.”

“Aside from milk, the deal also allows MG to range its cheese, butter and spreads in Coles, which makes it even more attractive.”

5. Has the Coles and Murray Goulburn deal devalued milk?
Poole was ever the diplomat on this one, saying the retail price of milk was “up to the supermarkets”. Hauser is a tad more direct. “For people to say milk will be devalued is absolute rubbish,” he says. “This is a great deal for MG’s farmer members. Is it MG’s responsibility to stay out of the market and let nonsense economics run the show?”

6. How will this affect NSW dairy farmers?
Hauser says many NSW dairy farmers will need to reassess their businesses. Milk price in both NSW and Victoria will be based on a mixture of domestic and export value with the export market being a major driver of that value.

The man himself, Robert Poole, says the NSW price will reflect “supply and demand, international prices and a premium that takes into account the added costs associated with supplying exact volumes of milk every month of the year”.

Will it shake up the NSW dairy sector, with its large number of very small farms? Undoubtedly, says Hauser. “NSW’s dairy farmers sold themselves into trouble when they handed over the responsibility for, and the value of, their products to private processors, who have no interest in their viability. Ironically, it is a Victorian farmer cooperative that is now reclaiming control in NSW.”

7. Why should Australians buy Devondale fresh milk rather than Coles homebrand milk?
“That you’ll have to wait and see,” teases Poole. “Seriously, it’s up to us to place Devondale in the market carefully, with the right price, packaging and provenance and other benefits that will appeal to shoppers.”

The co-op does a deal with the devil and keeps its soul

I never thought I’d say this but some of my milk will be sold on Coles’ shelves in both homebrand and Devondale cartons from next year. And I’m pleased.

You see, the co-op we supply, Murray Goulburn, is a giant too. It processes around 35 per cent of Australia’s milk and earns $1.17 billion in exports, making MG one of the largest container exporters from the Port of Melbourne. In other words, it doesn’t have to sell to Coles and Woolies, giving it much greater leverage with the supermarket duopoly. It also has the scale needed to be an efficient processor. Most importantly, its number one goal as a 100% farmer owned co-op is to maintain the profitability of its farmers.

All the same, it is confronting when “our” co-op does a deal with the devil. Has it sold out on us?

I asked dairy analyst, Jon Hauser of Xcheque for his thoughts. “My view is the news is very, very positive,” he said. “This is one of the few things that has the potential to lift the returns for farmers by maybe two or three cents per litre and, perhaps more importantly, it can reduce the volatility of farm gate prices.”

The thing is, while Murray Goulburn exports around half of its milk, reducing our reliance on the supermarkets, that exposure to international commodity prices and the exchange rate can be painful, too. International commodity prices rise and fall like a cork in a bottle and the average Aussie dairy farmer loses about $9,000 (according to my back of the envelope sums) with every cent the Australian dollar rises against the US dollar. Of course, it’s at record highs right now and not looking like falling below parity any time soon. The uncertainty that comes with that volatility makes it very hard for farmers to attract finance and invest with confidence in their businesses.

On the other hand, I wondered why Murray Goulburn could make a profitable $1 milk deal with Coles when Lion, the company currently processing Coles’ homebrand milk, cannot. Jon Hauser thinks it’s largely an issue of supply chain efficiency.

“Leaving aside the aberration of $1.00 discount milk, branded milk retails at about $1.60 per litre and supermarket private label at about $1.20 per litre,” Hauser says.

“Farmers are getting 25 – 35 % of the consumer dollar. In the UK and the US farmer share is closer to 50%. Direct supply by a farmer co-op removes the middleman that is adding cost in marketing and collecting additional value from their brands.

“It is true that the supermarkets will become ‘the brand’ but the farmer co-op should also able to retrieve some of this value. In the case of the Coles/MG deal, MG will get part of that return from the ranging of their own Devondale brand.

“What is most critical in maintaining a balance of commercial power is the ability of farmers to sell their milk to a range of alternate customers. Murray Goulburn has the diversity of product and markets to do that and can now genuinely claim that they have a balanced portfolio of domestic and export sales”.

It all sounds very positive for existing Victorian Murray Goulburn dairy farmers like me. But what about for farmers near Sydney, who have been supplying Lion and Parmalat and who traditionally get so much more for their milk than we do yet depend almost exclusively on supermarkets?

Mike Logan, the head of Dairy Connect, which represents the NSW dairy sector, describes today’s announcement as a “game changer” and in a letter to farmers, had this to say:

“We have three big changes on the table at once;
1. The manufacturing milk price rise
2. The drop in production so that NSW and Qld are now short of fresh milk
3. New models of supply to the supermarkets

“This all adds up to change.

“For the NSW dairy industry it may mean:
1. Investment in new processing capacity
2. A new pricing model for the whole fresh milk industry
3. Re-energising brands such as Devondale and Norco
4. Relocation of a large number of farmer dairy suppliers from one supplier to another
5. Changing role of the processors and processing capacity
6. A risk for the milk vendors as the processing sector changes.

“…the supermarkets have been true to their word and have been looking for new ways to create a sustainable future for the NSW dairy industry. We have to look past the $1/litre milk and build a new future.”

“However, these changes will be at considerable cost to some people. We need to be careful and respectful of the impact of these changes. We do not want to create a situation of winners and losers.”

The reality is, though, that there will be losers. Commenting on the future of the current processor of Coles’ milk, Lion, prominent NSW dairy farmer, Lynne Strong (@CHDairies) said on Twitter that “They have lost QLD plus NSW Coles contracts Cant see them surviving this one #sadbutrue”.

Lion is almost certainly not going to be the only loser in what all agree will be massive upheaval in New South Wales. But there will be winners and maybe, just maybe, represented by an increasingly powerful co-operative, dairy farmers will claw back a little dignity. And you, dear milk drinker, will soon be able to buy 100 per cent farmer-owned fresh milk knowing that all the profits stay right here in Australia.

Co-op does fresh milk deal with Coles

Murray Goulburn, the co-op that processes our milk, sent out an email this morning that will have a huge impact on dairy farming: it will supply Coles fresh milk for the homebrand and our own Devondale milk. Here’s an excerpt from MG’s press release:

“• Devondale announces 10-year private label daily milk partnership with Coles
• The Co-operative will also relaunch Devondale branded daily pasteurised milk
• Devondale cheese will return to Coles’ shelves
• Deal will deliver additional profits to Devondale dairy farmers
Devondale (Murray Goulburn Co-operative Co. Limited), the Australian farmer Co-operative, today announced a landmark, ten-year partnership to supply Coles with daily pasteurised milk for its private label brands in Victoria and NSW from July 2014.

Separately, the Co-operative will also relaunch Devondale-branded daily pasteurised milk, through an initially exclusive agreement with Coles, and Devondale cheese will return to Coles’ shelves.
The milk price paid by Coles under this unique agreement locks in a premium that will deliver additional profits to Devondale dairy farmers over the life of the contract. The premium is not affected by price fluctuations in international dairy markets or movements in the Australian currency and the contract
contains rise and fall provisions to protect the premium farmers receive.
As a Co-operative, Devondale will return 100% of the profits from this agreement to its farmer-shareholders through higher farm-gate returns.

Devondale Managing Director, Gary Helou, commented, “The daily pasteurised milk segment is currently mainly supplied by foreign owned companies that repatriate their profits to overseas shareholders. The entry of Australia’s farmer owned Co-operative into this market segment cuts out the middle man and delivers profits directly to farmers.

“This is a logical growth opportunity that extends Devondale’s domestic presence in consumer markets and is expected to lock in returns that will be paid to farmers through higher farm-gate prices. These higher prices will benefit all dairy farmers.”

It goes on to say that:

“We appreciate that there has been considerable public concern about the pricing policy for private label milk. Under the contract agreed with Coles the retail shelf price for milk does not determine the profits that will be received by MG supplier-shareholders.”

“MG expects to receive returns that represent a premium over and above the price available in other markets such as commodity dairy ingredients. The contract is expected to lock in this premium for ten years, regardless of what is happening in international dairy markets or movements in the Australian currency. All profits on this contract will be returned to all supplier-shareholders through improved farmgate returns. This new revenue stream will also reduce volatility by providing an additional domestic earnings stream as a balance to fluctuating export earnings.

“As part of this expansion MG will be taking on new supplier-shareholders across existing and new supply zones to meet the growing demand on our milk supply. This includes growing a local milk supply in the Sydney region. The Sydney milk pricing arrangements are yet to be finalised but importantly, the arrangement provides sufficient flexibility for MG to offer a fair farm-gate price which will be supported by Coles. In other words it is expected that all profits from this project will be returned to our total supplier-shareholder base.”

Will have more on this for you later today.

Friendly fire from the milk co-op

I don’t think MG’s chief banana, Gary Helou, was expecting its farmer shareholders to be pleased with the co-op’s rebranding exercise. Referring to the Dev ‘n Dale ads, he writes to his farmers:

“We have received several comments about the adverts in relation to farmer image. It is important to note that the Dev and Dale adverts have been carefully designed to achieve consumer cut-through to drive brand recognition and sales volumes.”

“This strategy is based on humour and the comic characters were designed to be over-the-top so they could not be construed as real representations of our farmers.

“The Dev and Dale characters were also developed to create greater recollection of the brand. Earlier market research found that consumers did not have strong recollection of the Devondale name or brand, and this means consumers are not often enough considering our products for purchase.

“We will monitor consumer response carefully to ensure there are no negative connotations for industry image.”

In earlier letters, the co-op had explained that the old branding was associated with a low-cost positioning and it was important to add value to the brand. I guess Dev ‘n Dale is their interpretation of “upmarket” then.

Please let me know – are the ads funny, memorable and indicative of a premium brand?

PS: For an alternate approach, check out Yeo Valley’s UK dairy promo.

About UHT milk

Here’s an interesting AAP newswire story about UHT:

Despite the supermarket heavyweight’s price war on fresh milk, sales of UHT milk are on the rise and now account for nearly 10 per cent of total milk sales. However, statistics from Dairy Australia show that most Australians still prefer fresh milk on their cereal.

UHT milk sales increased eight per cent from 195 million litres to 211 million litres in 2009/2010 over the year before, accounting for 9.3 per cent of total milk sales for the same period.

Associate Professor Frank Zumbo of the University of NSW, said the rise of UHT milk sales was currently not a threat to the big supermarkets as the long life product was low maintenance and did not require refrigeration costs.

“If the trend continued, it would be troubling, but at the moment it’s clear consumers have a strong preference for fresh milk,” he said.

The number was off a low base, where UHT had traditionally had a very low percentage of the market, he told reporters on Friday.

“But we are seeing the owners of UHT brands trying to lift their profile through increased advertising.”

A survey of 2,500 milk drinkers by consumer research centre Canstar Blue found that out of all Australians who had purchased milk in the past six months, those drinking Devondale UHT milk said they were happier than consumers of other brands, based on overall satisfaction, taste, health benefits and packaging.

Canstar Blue manager Rebecca Logan said the results were surprising, given the attractive prices offered by major supermarkets on fresh milk.

“There’s no doubt long life milk has come a long way over the years and consumers are responding to its convenience and long shelf life,” Logan said in a statement on Friday.

The average Australian drinks 102 litres of milk a year, according to Australian Dairy Farmers.

So, what is UHT milk?

UHT stands for Ultra-High Temperature and refers to the pasteurisation process – the heating of milk to ensure it is free from nasty bugs. Rather than being heated at 74 degrees Celsius for about 15 seconds, it is heated at about 140 degrees Celsius for just two seconds.

There is little nutritional difference between “fresh” and “long life” milk and according to Curtin University scientists, UHT milk is more environmentally-friendly than “fresh” milk.

Which milk do we drink at the farm?

I’m often asked whether we drink milk straight from the vat. Well, no, actually we drink Devondale UHT milk, which is where some of our milk ends up, anyhow. It’s safer than raw milk and easier to get out of the pantry than out of a 17,500 litre vat!