Revolution on our doorstep

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Photo by Nic McPhee

Something fascinating is happening on our doorstep.

Back in the 1970s around 95% of milk came in glass bottles with foil tops, almost all home delivered by a fleet of electric milk floats.

I am old enough to remember, mornings before school, two fresh pints on the front step – sometimes with their lids punctured by opportunistic birds (a problem solved by opportunistic entrepreneurs, who invented protective caps).

Delivery of milk by horse and cart began in urban areas during the 18th Century. Back then people would have their pails topped up three times a day.

The first glass milk bottle was patented in 1874, and they started to become popular at the turn of the 20th Century.

The growth in home refrigeration in the 1950s reduced demand for daily fresh milk, but the real decline began in the 1990s when supermarkets started selling milk cheaply in plastic cartons.

By 2012 the proportion of milk sold in glass bottles had fallen to just 4% and home deliveries accounted for just 3% of sales.

And that is where you might think the story ends. But perhaps the humble milk round could make a comeback.

According to Dairy UK the number of doorstep deliveries stands at 800,000. Some companies, like Woodman’s Dairy in Cardiff, are investing in refurbishing electric milk floats and deliver glass bottles in response to customer demand.

Perhaps a locally sourced natural product, sold in reusable containers, and delivered by environmentally friendly electric vehicles is more relevant now than ever.

Photo by Richard PH

This post was also published as part of weekly column in the Lancashire Post, Blackpool Gazette and Lancaster Guardian. Related – see an example of a dairy farm diversifying – our client Brades Farm.

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