With public health advocates like Marion Nestle doing their damndest to wean America off soda, and with cities around the world fighting obesity by instituting soda taxes, Coca-Cola has cleverly channeled some of its money and marketing focus to another, more wholesome beverage: Milk.
But Coca-Cola’s milk, called Fairlife, is pricier than your standard carton of milk ($4 for 52 ounces versus $2 for 64 ounces of non-organic milk), and for good reason — Fairlife contains more protein and calcium than regular milk, has half the sugar, and is also lactose-free. All those perks have been carefully cultivated to make Fairlife “rain money,” as Sandy Douglas, president of Coca-Cola North America, has said in the past.
Coke’s investment in Fairlife, in which the company has a minority stake, and is run in partnership with a dairy cooperative, is so far paying off.
In 2015, despite cereal consumption falling in the millennial demographic (because it’s not “convenient” enough, according to a recent survey) the sale of specialty milk rose by 21 percent, up from nine percent in 2014, due in large part to Fairlife. A big part of the company’s appeal is its commitment to the humane treatment of its cows, and sustainable farming methods that include the conversion of manure into methane to power dairies, according to Bloomberg.
For Coca-Cola, premium milk is the pure and press-friendly answer to its soda woes — the company is considering a lawsuit against the British government for implementing a soda tax.
“They know dairy better than anybody,” a brand manager for Coca-Cola said of the cooperative. “We know consumers.”