‘Disgusting’: Coles slammed over milk call

MILK
Coles has been slammed for dumping a farmers-owned milk product. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

The co-founders of a beloved local dairy brand which was dumped by retail behemoth Coles have spoken up about the controversial decision.

In a lengthy post to social media, Gippsland Jersey co-founders Sallie Jones and Steve Ronalds grapple with the pain and struggle hitting their operation following the widely-panned decision from Coles to remove the milk brand from most of its stores.

“Gippsland Jersey is facing challenges,” the pair said.

“The brand is being delisted from the majority of Coles stores due to the retailer’s margin requirements and sales expectations.

“We are bitterly disappointed that Coles supermarket has a system that we believe doesn’t really work for little brands like us.

“We’ve tried hard but we just don’t have the big advertising budgets and profitability to ‘go on sale’ and drop our pants on giving them more margin and we certainly won’t be going broke trying to appease them.

Gippsland Jersey’s Full Cream Milk was recently named as the best milk overall in Victoria by the Dairy Industry Association of Australia for 2024.
Gippsland Jersey’s Full Cream Milk was recently named as the best milk overall in Victoria by the Dairy Industry Association of Australia for 2024.

“This decision by Coles overlooks the broader impact on family farms and rural communities, which depend on the viability of local dairy businesses like Gippsland Jersey to provide jobs and transport, etc and more importantly you would think in giving consumers a choice.”

Gippsland Jersey milk, which is “proudly independent and Australian-owned”, was stocked in about 200 Coles stores.

However, it has now been dropped in the “vast majority” of the company’s supermarkets.

Many customers were upset by the move, with a number of shoppers venting their frustration online.

“If Coles won’t support local producers such as Gippsland Jersey and they put their profits over local jobs I’m done with Coles,” one said.

“Disgusting Coles,” another said.

“Ever since Coles purchased their own milk processing plants, I’ve been concerned what will happen to the smaller suppliers,” wrote another.

A Coles spokesman said the company was committed to selling the brand “where we see most demand for this local brand from customers”.

Gippsland Jersey co-founders Sallie Jones and Steve Ronalds. Picture: Supplied
Gippsland Jersey co-founders Sallie Jones and Steve Ronalds. Picture: Supplied

“Giving customers choice when shopping is an important part of our offer at Coles.

“To ensure we have the right products available on shelf, we regularly review the ranges on offer to understand how items are being received by customers, and to help ensure the right products can be purchased by shoppers in parts of the country where there is most demand.

“We remain committed to continuing to support independent and local producers, and from July, we will focus on selling Gippsland Jersey in 16 stores in Victoria where we see most demand for this local brand from customers.”

Ms Jones and Mr Ronalds warned local dairy farmers were struggling to stay alive.

“Reduced milk prices will mean that more farmers will be questioning whether they sell up or change what they do with their land,” they said.

“Despite the assumption that higher retail prices mean better earnings for farmers, the reality is starkly different.

COLES STOCK
Some Coles customers have reacted with anger at the news the retail giant will pull Gippsland Jersey from most of its stores: NCA NewsWire / David Mariuz

“Many dairy farmers struggle to maintain their livelihoods, let alone invest in necessary bank repayments, farm upgrades, or retain their employees.

“It is a widespread issue affecting many family-run dairy farms across the nation.”

In a call to action, the producers ask shoppers to back local farmers.

“While supermarket giants focus on margins, it is up to us, the consumers, to make choices that reflect our values,” they said.

“By buying truly independent brands such as Gippsland Jersey milk, Maffra cheese, and other local products, we are not only choosing a superior product but also investing in the future of Australian dairy farming.

“We want to ensure that family farms remain sustainable and continue to contribute to our communities.”