Future of Milk distribution from Dairy Processors to Home
While the entire world is going through a crisis and facing many challenges, the situation also presents us with an opportunity; an opportunity to change and evolve.
Though as 21st-century citizens, we have been quite eco-friendly in some way or another, the majority of us, until very recently, didn't think our small actions would have any impact on the environment. But the current lockdown situation has proved that if we take these small actions collectively, nature can flourish again.
Coming to the dairy industry, one such action needs to be doing away with plastic pouches for milk. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi readies to unveil his drive to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022, which is choking the environment, we as industry pioneers need to provide the alternatives and need to eliminate it from our lives.
Milk cartons already have a place in the market and are readily available at major supermarkets. The ease of storage and longer shelf life makes these recyclable tetra-packs a worthy option for both distributors and end consumers.
However, it is not the most preferred option for a lot of suppliers due to high capital and processing costs, especially those catering to a more economical, price sensitive consumer base. The same consumer segment usually also has a perception that the milk is not fresh.
The use of glass bottles is not a new phenomenon; it was what large scale plants used before switching to plastic pouches. Many Delhiites still recall with nostalgia those days when they would make a dash to the Delhi Milk Scheme booth early in the morning to fetch their supply of milk. The milk then came in wide-mouthed glass bottles with easily peelable aluminium covers.Today a lot of small scale suppliers have created their niche markets with glass bottle deliveries at your doorsteps.
The idea of glass bottles is attractive - they can be recycled and reused, and often boast 'fresher' milk in comparison to cartons. But due to the drawbacks of logistics involved in distribution, collecting back empties, capital costs in infrastructure (bottle washing, filling, big cold stores), bulkiness, accidents due to breakage and injuries to operators, glass bottle has turned out to be a difficult and an expensive choice for the major players who are supplying lakhs of litres of milk everyday
Why not just eliminate the packaging? With the use of vending machines milk plants can save substantial differential costs and can also eliminate the drawbacks of packaging. And with growing technology, vending machines have moved beyond your humble neighbourhood Mother Dairy with 'token milk' to vending machines which provide the flexibility of Any Time Milk.
There are advanced machines that do not require manpower, and then there are the mobile vending machines that bring milk where you are. While this is a promising option, since the onus of logistics from retail points to homes lies on the end consumer, it can be a challenge. There is also an undeniable chance of adulteration at the retail point with certain machines
From the farmers perspective, vending machines do provide a platform to sell milk directly to consumers. Farmers earn better prices, increased farm household incomes and consumers benefit in getting fresh milk.
Even though all the alternatives have their pros and cons, the verdict is clear. We do need to get rid of plastic. After that, it's all about finding the best option that meets everyone's expectations.
By Amardeep Singh Chadha