Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Got Fairlife?

You've probably heard about Fairlife already--the new milk product out from Coke, lampooned on Stephen Colbert as an over-priced "Frankenstein Food."

Though ripe for comedy, it's worth mentioning that Fairlife is neither owned nor was created by Coca-Cola. Coke is in partnership with its creators to distribute, and, unfortunately, advertise Fairlife for them:

The idea of the beverage is that it's lower in fat and sugar than regular milk, and contains no lactose, but that it's just as safe and nutritious and tasty as real milk--indeed, moreso. But why monkey around with milk in the first place, you may well ask. Isn't altering milk in a lab akin to reinventing the wheel? After all, milk is often called nature's perfect food, isn't it? 

Apparently not perfect enough for today's world, where milk may be a perfect food … but is it a perfect product?

As a product, milk leaves a lot to be desired. First of all, anyone with a cow can make it; that's a  big downside for corporations, where proprietary ownership is key. Another problem is that, more and more, milk comes from a few, centralized mega-farms--not the small, family-owned local dairies of yore. That means logistical headaches. Unlike, say, tennis balls, time is a real factor in shipping and distributing milk--it has only a tiny window of time before it goes bad. 

That's why Fairlife is just what the P.hD in bioengineering ordered. According to Coca-Cola's North American chief Sandy Douglas, (as quoted in this article) when speaking at Morgan Stanley's Global Consumer Conference in November, 2014, Fairlife "has a proprietary milk filtering process" that removes much of the sugar. "It's basically the premiumization of milk," Douglas said.

Proprietary ownership? Check.

And, from near the end of the same article:
The product also has a shelf life of 90 days, compared to regular milk that typically expires within a couple weeks of purchase.
Don't be mislead by that sentence, Consumer. That "improved shelf life"? isn't for you. It's for them. Fairlife can sit in a truck, loiter on a train, linger on a dock, collect dust in a warehouse, for 3 months. Yum.

Ultimately, it seems, the goal of this product, and products like it, is to be something a lot more like tennis balls and a lot less like food.

So, no matter what it tastes like, no matter its price point, the fact is, a more accurate name for this product? 

For more on Fairlife, follow these links:

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