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Got better milk?

A new, improved milk arrives in national grocery stores

Created date

April 23rd, 2015
fairlife milk
fairlife milk

In the fast-changing landscape of supermarket shelves, the newest buzzword is “protein.” Once marketed exclusively to bodybuilders, protein drinks, powders, and bars are now staples for the general population. 

“Consumers want more protein in their diets. In fact, the only issue that U.S. adults are now checking on the “Nutrition Facts” label on the back of foods and beverages is the amount of protein,” says Harry Balzer, chief industry analyst for NPD Group, a market research firm. “While our interest in protein is growing, we’re looking for alternatives to meat. Many of us are looking to lower the cost of our protein sources, and animal meat is generally more expensive than plant-based protein, which explains the growth in Greek yogurt and other alternate protein sources.”

At the same time, sales of sugary, artificially colored soda and juice beverages are declining. Looking to capitalize on both of these trends, a company called fairlife has introduced a new concept for one of the oldest beverages known to man—milk.

Filtering process

Disputing the notion that you can’t improve on nature, fairlife milk boasts 50% more protein, 30% more calcium, and half the sugar of ordinary milk. It is also suitable for those with lactose intolerance. Unlike many other protein-boosted products, fairlife does not contain any protein powders or nutritional supplements. The key to fairlife’s impressive nutritional profile lies in the filtering process.

“Our patented filtration concentrates the best of milk’s natural nutrients, like protein and calcium, while filtering out the lactose and reducing the sugars—we’re very excited to be taking a superfood and making it even better, with more goodness than ever,” says fairlife founder Mike McCloskey. “fairlife is a transformational innovation that retains the purity of real milk, yet significantly improves its health benefits and taste.”

McCloskey is a former veterinarian and an active dairy farmer who started fairlife with his wife Sue. They live on a dairy farm in northwest Indiana with their children. “As dairy farmers and parents of four, we believe that milk could and should be even better,” says Sue McCloskey. “With fairlife, we’re bringing families everywhere great tasting, convenient, high-quality, simple nutrition from real food.”

From grass to glass

“Believe in better,” is the company philosophy, describing its approach to every step of the production process—from grass to glass. Their “closed system” is unique in the dairy world. Co-op farmers grow their own crops, which are harvested and fed to their cows. Each farm fills a tanker truck with milk before sending it off to be filtered at the fairlife plant in Coopersville, Mich. The upshot of this system means that the milk in each container comes from a single traceable farm. 

Another unique aspect of fairlife is the care and attention it gives its animals. Their cows are not penned up in stalls. Rather, they may walk around freely or rest on comfortable beds. Care is given to keep the animals warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Newborn calves are monitored daily and given appropriate medical treatment. 

The taste test

How does it taste? This reporter has been drinking fairlife 2% reduced fat milk since it first arrived in my local grocery store in January. Mixed with cereal, I can’t taste any difference between fairlife and regular milk. In a glass by itself, however, there is a noticeable difference. 

The fairlife milk tastes creamier. Its texture is also creamier. I like that—so much, in fact, that I’ve taken to drinking fairlife as a beverage, not just a cereal mixer—something I never did with ordinary milk. My husband, on the other hand, winced when he tasted fairlife in a glass, though he likes it with cereal just fine. 

Next, we tasted the chocolate. This time, my husband and I agreed. Neither of us will be gulping down their chocolate variety. Again, the texture is thick but the taste was overwhelmingly sweet. Imagine a melted chocolate milkshake from McDonald’s. That’s what fairlife chocolate reminded us of. My father, who calls himself a “chocolate milk superfan,” enjoyed the chocolate. Moral of the story—it all depends on what you like. 

Priced between $3.98 and $4.29 for a half gallon, fairlife milk, which comes in whole, reduced fat 2%, fat-free, and chocolate, is more expensive than a gallon of regular milk but it costs about the same as Lactaid or organic milk.  

The distributor of fairlife is none other than beverage behemoth, the Coca-Cola Company. Both fairlife and Coke take great pains to say that this is not “Coke milk.” Coca-Cola is only responsible for getting the milk to consumers...which means, if you can’t find it in your local grocery store, you can bet that it's on its way.