Cream’s rising back to the top

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Something fascinating is happening on our doorstep.

Back in the 1970s, around 95 per cent of milk came in glass bottles with foil tops, almost all home delivered by a roving 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).

Home 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 four per cent and home deliveries accounted for just three per cent 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.

“We’ve had 50 to 100 people call in this week, with 30 to 40 new customers off the internet looking to cut down on their use of plastic,” founder Mark Woodman said recently.

“We’re having a real resurgence over the last couple of years.

“We’re up 30 per cent over the last couple of years, and still a lot of people who are having their milk delivered. We’re selling about 12,000 glass bottles a week.”

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

By Guy Cookson, Partner at Hotfoot Design