When my husband mentioned that Coca-Cola had broken into the milk business (during a long drive up to Nor-Cal to visit family for Thanksgiving), I was intrigued. Coke is making milk? It seemed pretty strange.
I immediately started researching, spending the remainder of our drive scouring the web for information about Coke’s new milk product called Fairlife (launching early 2015).
What I found was a mess of misleading and deceptive marketing — all wrapped up in a pretty package that’s advertised as “purely nutritious” milk. But it’s not — not even close.
Not because it’s made by Coca-Cola. And not even because of their controversial pin-up advertisements. I’ll get to all of Fairlife’s flaws (and there are many) in a minute. But first, let’s talk about what Fairlife is.
What is Fairlife?
Fairlife is a lactose-free “super milk” that contains 50% more protein, 30% more calcium, and 50% less sugar than regular milk.
Even though this hot new product (a joint venture between Coca-Cola and Select Milk Producers), won’t be available in most stores until early 2015, it’s already making headlines nationwide. According to this article from Business Week,
Unlike soda, the U.S. milk industry remains highly fragmented with few recognizable brand names. In fact, store-brand milk accounts for almost one-third of milk sales, according to market research firm Euromonitor International. With Fairlife, Coca-Cola is looking to use its marketing prowess to change that — creating the “Coke” of milks.
Sandy Douglas, president of Coca-Cola North America, expects Fairlife to “rain money” once it’s established in the marketplace. “We’ll charge twice as much for it as the milk we’re used to buying in a jug,” Douglas said.
Mark McAfee, owner of Organic Pastures (the largest raw-milk dairy in the United States) isn’t quite buying it. “It’s a dead-end venture,” he said. “Our core consumer wants unprocessed, whole, delicious, easy-to-digest full-fat raw milk from a farmer they know and trust.”
I tend to agree with him.
Not just because I’m a fan of Organic Pastures, but mainly because I get kind of annoyed whenever a big, powerful company tries to trick people into thinking that something they have created is better than what nature has already perfected (whole, raw, organic milk from happy cows that live outside and eat grass).
5 Reasons Why I Won’t Be Drinking Fairlife
Let’s get one thing straight. Companies are certainly free to sell whatever they want. And I am by no means on a mission to turn people away from a product just because I don’t like it.
But once I really started looking into Fairlife and the claims attached to their products (via their website and from speaking with a Fairlife representative on the phone), I felt that some light needed to be shed on their extremely misleading marketing messages.
Because it doesn’t strike me as fair to manipulate consumers with good intentions into buying something that they think is healthy (when its really anything but) — especially at twice the price of regular milk!
Here’s why Coca-Cola’s Fairlife Milk is anything but fair:
- #1: It’s not innovative — it’s Frankenmilk. Fairlife prides itself on being at the cutting edge of milk-making with their “innovative” filtration process. From their website:
Our milk flows through soft filters so that we can concentrate the good stuff – like protein and calcium – and filter out the fat and sugars. That allows us to bottle only delicious, nutrient-rich milk – with no added protein powders or synthetic junk.
This video further explains how their filtration process works:
All of this will probably sound really good to a lot of people, which is part of the reason why it irks me so much. Everything in nature is put together for a reason. And the naturally occurring nutritional components in the foods we eat work synergistically to provide us with whole foods that are healthful, nourishing, and safe to eat.
When we start deconstructing these foods, picking and choosing what to leave in and what to take out, we open the door for problems to occur. Numerous studies have proven parts of certain foods to be harmful when consumed in isolation (without the same vitamins, minerals, fats, etc. found in their natural food form).
For example, T. Colin Campbell proved in The China Study that the milk protein casein caused cancer in rats. But the milk protein whey (conveniently left out of The China Study) appears to be effective in protecting against cancer.
I’m certainly NOT claiming that drinking Fairlife will cause any kind of sickness or disease. But when it comes to deciding what components should and shouldn’t be in milk, I think we’re better off trusting nature over Coca-Cola.
- #2: Factory farming is not sexy. It takes a lot of guts to try and manipulate folks into thinking that factory farming is cool and progressive (as opposed to cruel, inhumane, bad for the environment, unhealthy, etc.) but that’s just what Fairlife does in this video…
Showing the words “we believe in better farming” next to a picture of an adorable calf trapped inside of a cage is a total joke — one that I don’t think many people will fall for.
- #3: Fairlife’s FAQs — yikes. Some of these literally made me LOL. This one was my favorite:
If cows could talk, I seriously doubt they would tell you that they prefer the “luxury” of an artificially lighted indoor feed lot to to being outside on fresh pasture — but that’s just me.
UPDATE (2/9/15): Fairlife has since removed this FAQ from their website, but has NOT changed their farming practices.
- #4: Highly pasteurized does not equal healthy. Milk is at its best in a natural, raw, unpasteurized state.
Pasteurization exists to destroy dangerous germs found in the milk of cows that are raised irresponsibly in feed lots. Although pasteurization does destroy the bad stuff, it messes with milk’s nutrient profile and wipes out much of the beneficial bacteria found in milk. For this reason, many people who can’t digest pasteurized milk are able to tolerate raw milk with no problems.
Fairlife takes this unnatural process one step further and pasteurizes their milk at an even higher temperature than ordinary milk. This process (advertised as another one of those progressive, cutting-edge innovations) is said to give Fairlife a longer shelf life than average milk.
- #5: “From Grass to Glass” — really? This probably won’t come as a surprise, but Fairlife’s cows do not eat grass or spend ANY time on pasture throughout their entire lives (a Fairlife rep confirmed this for me over the phone).
So why do they use this phrase to describe the their milk? Good question.
Fairlife’s “from grass to glass” promise really has nothing to do with grass. Instead, it’s a phrase used to describe their process of growing their own crops for their cows. According to the Fairlife rep I spoke with, the company grows a mixture of GMO corn, soy, alfalfa, and grains that is used to feed their cows.
From grass to glass? Not quite. But it has a nice ring to it and will surely catch people’s attention.
The Bottom Line
The people behind Fairlife are smart. They know what people want. And these days, more and more people want to eat real food that was raised responsibly, ethically, and healthfully. This is a good thing.
But what bothers me the most about Fairlife isn’t that their milk comes from cows that are housed indoors, fed grains and GMOs, and given antibiotics. And I don’t really give a hoot that their Frankenmilk is ultra-pasteurized.
What really irritates me is how Fairlife is taking advantage of the “real food” movement by selling people on the idea of transparency, simple ingredients, better farming practices, etc.
But that’s all it is — an idea.
Failife isn’t selling milk. They’re selling consumers all kinds of happy, feel-good terms without actually delivering any of them. Seems pretty unfair if you ask me!
What’s your opinion of Fairlife? Did you find their methods of marketing as disturbing as I did? Let me know with a comment!