A blast from the past

13th June 2019

Consumers’ wants and needs are changing. Sustainability is here to stay and for very good reason. One of the first to have benefitted from a more mindful consumer is the milk delivery man, with Milk & More receiving 75,000 new customers in the past year, with 90% of customers are wanting milk to be delivered in glass bottles. One glass bottle can be re-used 25 times before it needs to be recycled, so it is clear why the public is making the switch. Mike Thornhill, a Consultant in Berwick Partners’ Consumer practice, explains how businesses can keep up with consumers’ changing expectations.


It has become more and more apparent that consumers need to change their habits, whether it’s minimising plastic consumption, reducing their carbon footprint, or having a more balanced diet (the so-called flexitarian). As we become more aware, consumers are seeking out eco-friendly services which has led to the rebirth of the ‘milkman’. One would have thought there was little way for the traditions of old to make a comeback, considering deliveries in glass bottles dropped from 94% in 1975 to just 3% in 2016. What makes it even better is that the majority of the milk floats are electric, reducing their carbon footprint whilst making their daily deliveries.

So, how has this nostalgic tradition made its way back to the doorsteps of the UK consumer?

The catalyst for the movement was David Attenborough’s documentary series, ‘Blue Planet’, followed by Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg, leaving people at home taking note and wanting to change their behaviours.

Customer experience vs expectations

Environmental benefits are a massive driver for today’s consumer. However, what is probably just as important is how agile milk delivery companies have become, giving a quicker delivery slot than some of the larger grocery stores.

For instance, Milk & More and The Modern Milkman now offer a full range of groceries which will be delivered to your doorstep before 7:30am. Whether you need one bottle of milk or want to restock your cupboards, these companies can assist you and, the best part, there is no minimum order, which supermarkets cannot compete with. For the delivery to be fulfilled, you need to ensure your order is placed the night before.

As a consumer, we are demanding more from our retailers than ever before. If it’s going to be a purely transactional purchase, it’s likely that the convenience of online will win the race. To entice a customer, there must be an additional pull – whether it’s the experience offered or a slick delivery service. Amazon, Dyson and Apple are all advocates for at least one of the these.

In today’s market, consumers are prepared to pay more for a premium experience or service if they feel it’s worth it. Mr Patrick Muller, MD of Milk & More, said they are gaining thousands of new customers each month, with their key demographic being young couples or families with a dual-income background. They want local, they want a story or traceability behind the product, but they just don’t have the time to do it themselves.

The future

I think we can be optimistic that certain services can withstand the changing high street and demands of the consumer. It sounds simple but remaining agile will help businesses to stay relevant. Milk services have used an old method and adapted it with new, quicker deliveries and an extensive range of products, whilst promoting the sustainability piece.

Until recently, competitive RSP had dominated the liquid milk sector ever since the supermarkets started to under-cut the doorstep milk deliveries. Now, the milkmen can fight back, but to maintain a competitive advantage they must keep investing in technology to create an efficient customer journey. Marketing, social media and app development are going to be key in their revival.

With any exciting company aiming to disrupt or revive an industry, appointing senior leadership is paramount to success. Disruptive businesses can grow relatively quickly, but maintaining growth requires strategic thinking and planning. Therefore, it is crucial that the senior leadership team is made up of functional and sector specialists who have worked in structured organisations that have been exposed to scaling.

At Berwick Partners, we specialise in assisting companies who need key senior leadership as they grow and transform.  For more information, please do get in touch with Mike Thornhill, Consultant in the Consumer practice.

Categories: Consumer