NewsBrits delighted with milkman's return

Brits delighted with milkman's return

Milkmen were once a common sight in Britain. But with the rise of supermarkets, they almost completely disappeared. Now they are back – not only because of the pandemic.

London – When Chris fetches fresh milk, he only has to open the front door briefly in the morning. She’s waiting on the threshold, in time for breakfast. “I’m so glad the milkman comes back in the morning,” says the west London pensioner.

Once upon a time milkmen with their metal carriers were a common sight on British roads, the rattling of vans a beloved sound. The milkman could even serve as a symbol of state order. “Democracy means if there’s a knock on the door at 3 a.m., it’s probably the milkman,” said British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Even in the 1980s, there were only a few doors that didn’t have one to four bottles on them in the morning. According to estimates, in 1970 99 percent of milk was delivered directly to the front door, but by the 21st century at the latest the number had dropped to almost zero.

Rise of supermarkets

Above all, it was the rise of the supermarkets, which were able to offer milk much cheaper due to their market power. Milk deliveries were suddenly a luxury that few could afford. In addition, there was a boom in “alternative milk” – instead of cow’s milk, customers were now asking for almond, soy or oat milk.

But that changes again. This is – of course, one is tempted to say – due to the corona pandemic. Delivery services were suddenly in high demand and the old milkman tradition was revived. The start-up The Modern Milkman from Lancaster in central England, for example, which four friends founded for their local community, could hardly keep up with the demand. At the beginning of the pandemic, 1,200 new customers were added every day, and up to ten drivers a day had to be hired and trained.

1000 milk women and men in action

One of the largest providers is Milk & More, which can look back on more than 130 years of tradition since the first milk deliveries in the 1880s. In the meantime, 1000 milk women and men are delivering to around 400,000 households across the country, as company boss Patrick Müller tells the German Press Agency. Since February, Milk & More has been an independent company in the German Müller Group, which took over the company in 2016.

But the pandemic was not the only thing that fueled demand. “In 2017 we saw a renewed surge of interest in our doorstep deliveries,” says CEO Mueller. Occasion: The BBC documentary “The Blue Planet”, suddenly many more consumers were looking for sustainable shopping solutions. “This sustainability trend has resulted in significant and enduring growth that began well before the pandemic, but was certainly fueled during this time,” reports Müller.

The company now operates one of the largest fleets of electric delivery vans in the country. And like Milk & More, many modern milk suppliers rely on reusable bottles instead of plastic packaging – and thus maintain the tradition. Industry association Dairy UK offers an online milkman locator.

The traditional bottle is back

In west London, pensioner Chris still raves about the iconic bottles, which traditionally hold a pint, with colored metal foil lids. The lid has long been more environmentally friendly, the bottle is back. The job also adapts in other respects. Orders have long been working via app. In addition, larger suppliers, but also local providers, which are available nationwide, offer many other dairy products such as cheese, butter or yoghurt, but also other typical rural products such as eggs or fresh juices, all made locally.

That’s still not cheap at a time when Brits are complaining about rising energy costs and taxes. But many customers enjoy the mixture of tradition and relaxation that the offer brings them. Jo Heaton from the county of Dorset found almost poetic words in an interview with the BBC: “It’s like finding treasure on your doorstep every morning.” dpa

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