Parmalat Australia CEO Craig Garvin told the Australian Financial Review earlier this month that the digestive health benefits touted by the a2 milk brand were "denigrating normal milk."
“Consumers are confused. We get calls all the time,” said Garvin.
“It’s a bit of brand damage for the whole industry.”
Speaking with DairyReporter.com, Peter Nathan, CEO of A2DPA, denied that Australia consumers are confused by its “very straightforward proposition.” He said that a2 milk has in fact “re-engaged many consumers with the dairy category who have experienced discomfort.”
“If a2 milk was confusing to consumers they would not be buying it,” he said.
“The reality is that more and more consumers are changing to a2 milk as it has brought relief to many consumers who experience discomfort when drinking milk.”
a2 milk, which is also marketed in New Zealand and the UK, is rich is A2 beta casein protein, but contains no A1 beta casein protein, which has been linked to digestive discomfort.
Dairy cows typically produce milk containing both proteins, but a2 milk is sourced from specially selected dairy cows that produce milk containing only the A2 protein.
The a2 brand has proved particularly popular in Australia, where it now accounts for around 8% of all fluid milk sales in terms of value.
Considering this growth, Nathan questioned how the a2 milk concept had damaged the Australian fluid milk market, as Parmalat chief Garvin had suggested.
“a2 milk has been unequivocally positive for the milk industry,” said Nathan.
“The growth of a2 milk since 2009 has coincided with the steady growth of the fresh milk category and overall consumption in Australia.”
“This contrasts with the contraction in growth in some developed markets such as the US where a2 milk has not yet been launched," he added.
Nathan declined to speculate on the reasons for Garvin’s claims, but said that they “were not made in response to any initiative or activity on A2DPA’s part.”
Competitive pressures may have played a part, however.
Parmalat Australia's Paul's leading fluid milk brand “lost 10% of its value share in grocery over the past 12 months,” said Nathan.