Supermarket giants Woolworths and Coles have announced that their private-label milk will no longer contain permeate, a watery byproduct of milk production.
Coles revealed that its private-label milk is already permeate-free in some parts of Australia, while Woolies, as it is popularly known, said that it was in discussions with suppliers about shifting to permeate-free milk.
The decision is significant as data from industry body Dairy Australia has revealed in the past that at least half of Australia's milk sales take place in supermarkets, a majority of which is cheaper than private-label milk.
The move comes right after Australian beverage heavyweight Lion made the first major move towards disrupting the milk manufacturing process by offering permeate-free milk under its brands.
Beginning 1 July, consumers of the country’s two largest brands, Pura Milk and Dairy Farmers (which Lion owns) are being offered without permeate, a watery byproduct of milk production.
Lion called the step the greatest transformation in the milk manufacturing process in more than 100 years, and said that that its consumers would be able to choose milk that is as close as possible to how it is on a farm.
The two retailers did not disclose why they were moving towards permeate-free milk, but the fact that both have contracts with Lion, as well as Parmalat, Murray Goulburn and Harvey for their private-label could have hastened their decision.
Lion though said that in omitting permeate, it had responded to consumer demand for purer, simpler and less processed food that comes from local sources in Australia’s western and southern states.
An online survey conducted this year by TNS among 1664 Australians revealed nine out of ten who check for additives and preservatives and the level of processing a product has undergone, would choose a less processed option if available.
“We looked at our manufacturing process and realised that adding permeate was not essential, so it was an easy decision to remove it from our milk,” said Libby Hay, external relations director at Lion.
“By not using permeate, the natural seasonal variations in protein will flow through into our rich, creamy milk, providing a product that is the purest quality milk,” said Hay.