Anchor hopes buyers will see the light

By Amy Shanks

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Anchor's new light-proof packaging claims to have revolutionised the taste of milk, but how practical is their new design for your average household?

A Hawke's Bay family of seven, who go through 12 to 20 litres a week, say they certainly won't be switching brands.

Hastings woman Juliet Russell is a single mum with six children and cannot afford to pay for fancy packaging, improved vitamin content or a fresher taste. As it is she spends between $18 and $25 on the most economical brand.

"Sometimes garages and other supermarkets have two for $5.50 deals which I get when I see them, but I'm not going to drag the kids around especially to chase those. I usually just buy what's cheap," she says.

Her children range from 3- to 16-years-old and use milk on cereal, in Milo and if there's some left in the bottom of the bottle, they drink it fresh.

Ms Russell also uses it in baking, which she does regularly to keep the cost of her grocery bill down.

"Everyone, the dentist, the schools say the kids should be drinking milk, but they don't even drink it on its own very often, and it still seems to go."

To help cut back on their intake the family try not to eat cereal as a snack or drink milk by the glassful every day.

Splashing out on more expensive milk, such as Anchor, would be a luxury and Ms Russell can't see them changing from the cheaper option any time soon.

"If the economic milk started tasting bad then we might have to look at trying something different, but it's fine for now."

Like many other consumers she disliked the idea of not knowing how much was left in the bottle.

"If someone got up first and drank the milk and I couldn't see how much was left, then I would have to pile all the young ones in the car to go and get some, so they could eat their cereal in the morning. That would be a hassle."

Napier couple Vaughan Hemara and Melanie Innes run a household of six and like Ms Russell, see very few benefits in buying the new Anchor milk bottle.


 


With two 15-year-olds and a 9-year-old as well as three adults to cater for, milk is an expensive commodity.

"It's definitely pricey but it's essential - we go through a lot of it. Bread is another essential, but that's a lot cheaper."

Because of the price tag, her household has learnt to use it in moderation and would go through a minimum of four litres in an average week.

"Generally it is a treat, if they have a glass of milk they might put some chocolate in it, or have a milkshake."

Her children were the biggest consumers, followed by her dad, husband and then herself.

"I only drink it in tea ... In all honesty I just go for the Budget brand, because that has always been the cheapest."

If anything the family was put off drinking Anchor milk because the new three layer bottles are believed to be more difficult to recycle.

"The hype is not a big enough motivating factor for me to try it, if it's more expensive [than other brands]. I was also horrified to read that the bottles are hard to recycle, which I don't like because we are big recyclers.

"An opaque bottle makes no difference and we go through it so quickly, light exposure is not an issue. I don't ever remember milk going off in our house."

Anchor released its specially engineered, triple layer, light-proof milk bottle early last month amid a flurry of interest. But it wasn't long before the dairy giant began receiving countless complaints and negative comments over the move.

The brand's Facebook page has become an outlet for people to vent their frustration, with some feeling so strongly about the non-transparent design, that they nominated it for Unpackit New Zealand's worst packaging award.

However Fonterra beverages group marketing manager Craig Irwin says some negativity was to be expected.

"As with any changes to popular brands, they can attract a mixture of feedback. For example, some customers are concerned that our triple layer packaging means triple the packaging material, this is not the case ... the bottles weigh about the same, they are still easily recyclable, and the environmental footprint is the same."

Others complained about not being able to see how much milk was left in the bottle at a glance, something they would eventually adjust to, he added.

"We are confident consumers will get used to this as they have for products like tomato sauce or shampoo."

There had also been a positive response from those who enjoyed Anchor's innovative design, improved flavour and other benefits.

Results from in-store tests of 15,000 people over the past few weeks showed 80 per cent of customers prefer the taste of milk from their new bottle.

"We have also seen an increase in sales."

Designing the light-proof packaging had been a priority for the past three years.

Part of the brief was taking the "guesswork" out of deciding if milk was fresh or not.

"Milk that doesn't pass the 'sniff test' is often light-damaged as opposed to just off. Light damage is under way long before your milk makes it home to the sanctuary of a dark fridge."

Final research included a number of studies such as blind taste tests and trials with baristas, who use milk on a daily basis.

Maintaining taste and nutritional value was considered to be the main objective of their new bottles, Mr Irwin said.

"The primary job of packaging is to protect what it contains and clear bottles do a rotten job of protecting milk."

According to Anchor it takes less than two hours of light exposure inside a store chiller or while in transit, for the process of light damage to start. Once under way, it does not stop.

That means vitamins such as A and B2, which are present in milk, may not make it to the glass in very high quantities.

However, Havelock North dietitian Diane Stride said the degradation of those particular vitamins was not concerning because they were easily obtained from other foods.


 


Riboflavin (vitamin B2) is needed to help break down carbohydrates, proteins and fats. It also makes it possible for oxygen to be used by your body and can be easily destroyed by light.

It can be found in dairy products, fish, meats, liver, green leafy vegetables, nuts, whole grain and enriched cereals - all of which should be part of a balanced diet.

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin which, depending on the form, occurs in liver, kidney, eggs, dairy products and dark or yellow vegetables. One average-sized carrot provides the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A.

"It's the A and B vitamins that are changed [by light], but people are not drinking milk for that. It's the calcium that's important," Mrs Stride said.

The recommended adult daily intake of calcium is between 1000 and 1300mg, depending on the person's age. But when Anchor full milk was compared to Budget brand full milk it was found to contain just eight more milligrams per serving.

"In terms of [Anchor] milk being more nutritional, sure it has those A and Bs but they don't mention anything about calcium. I could not find any research about the effect of light on calcium at all, and not through lack of trying."

When it comes to taste, milk drinkers will be pleased to hear Anchor's newest product should deliver what it promises.

EIT senior lecturer Malcolm Reeves, who specialises in wine science and has written a chapter on packaging, was able to offer some insight into how the new triple layer technology actually protects milk.


 


"It does affect how it tastes, because milk will begin to deteriorate as soon as it's next to light, whether that's natural or fluorescent. It's not only changes to the vitamins but oxidative changes in the fat.

"For those who are sensitive to the taste, this significantly changes the flavour and protects the taste from that oxidising process."

Anchor's packaging prevents that and improves shelf life, a feature which can be helpful for people who don't go through it very quickly.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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