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12 Things You Need to Know About A2 Milk

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

When a new food trend presents itself a considerable amount of the success or failure in consumer uptake relates back to the way the product was introduced to the marketplace.  Drinking milk is by no means a “new” marketing trend but with the acknowledged trend toward healthier eating and better diet choices, the entry into the marketplace of a “new and better” milk drink is making ripples in milk glasses around the world. Milk has certainly seen its share of positive and negative marketing.  Everyone relates to and has positive feelings about the “milk moustache” campaign.  But mothers worldwide deal with the issues of “lactose intolerance” and “mother’s milk versus cow’s milk”. Every dairy producer faces the arguments of natural, unnatural or pasteurized.  And even with the acceptance or more flavored milks, the health issues have not been truly answered. What does this “new” milk mean to dairy producers?

Something Exceptional? Or Exceptional Marketing?

An Australia based firm – A2 Corp. – has been selling a brand of A2 milk in New Zealand and Australia for the past 10 years and is poised to launch into the North American market. Their growing body of research suggests that A2 milk may provide the answer for the 1 in 4 Americans who suffer from lactose intolerance.  The A2 Company hypothesizes that the problem is that they are unable to digest A1, a protein most often found in milk from high producing Holstein Cows. They propose that the A2 protein which predominates in milk from Jersey, Guernsey and most Asian and African cow breeds is more easily digested.

It’s about Leaky Gut Syndrome.

As with many health food trends, evidence shows they often get the first foot hold in the alternative medicine field.  From that perspective, the leading explanation for why some people can’t tolerate A1 milk is attributed to leaky gut syndrome. The idea that loose connections in the gut, “like tears in a coffee filter, allows proteins to enter the body and run wild.  In response the body sends immune cells to fight the autoimmune invaders and the result is swelling and pain from the resulting inflammation.  These symptoms are associated with arthritis, diabetes and autism.

What’s wrong with A1?

The real fiend in A1 milk according to A2 proponents is that, when digested, A1 beta-casein releases beta-casomorphin7 (BCM7), an oploid with a morphine-like structure.  Numerous recent tests report higher-than-average levels of BCM7 in blood from people with autism and schizophrenia. Furthermore, a recent study that is currently under review in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry reports on cell cultures research by Richard Deth and Malav Trivedi, both in the Pharmacology Department at  Northeastern University in Boston, that shows similar high amounts of BCM7 in gut cells causes a chain reaction that creates a shortage of antioxidants in neural cells.  This is a condition that other research has tied to autism.

Where’s the SCIENCE?

As for leaky gut, this is a condition that many adults may suffer from.  However, the condition is normal in babies under a year of age, who naturally have semi-permeable intestines.  Therefore, when they’re fed typical cow-milk formula, problems arise with digestion.  “A 2009 study documented that formula-fed infants developed muscle tone and psychomotor skills more slowly than infants that were fed A2-only breast milk.  Researchers in Russia, Poland and the Czech Republic have suggested links between BCM7 in cow milk and childhood health issues.  Another more recent study implicates BCM7 in sudden infant death syndrome, reporting that some “near-miss SIDS” infants had blood serum containing more BCM7 than the blood of healthy infants of the same age.” Research is ongoing to support these claims.

Partners on the Frontier

Bob Elliott, Professor of Child Health Research at the University of Auckland opened up discussions about A1 milk and diabetes in Samoan Children.  In a 1997 study published by the International Dairy Federation, Elliott showed A1 beta-casein caused mice to develop diabetes. In 2000 he partnered with entrepreneur Howard Paterson, then regarded as the wealthiest man on New Zealand’s South Island, to found the A2 Corporation.

False and Misleading?

Those charged with responsibility for public health and safety are feeling the pressure from this new product. In 2009 the European Food Safety Authority reported that they found no link between consumption of A1 milk and health and digestive problems.  To date, much of the supporting research has come from the A2 Corp., which holds a patent for the only genetic test that can separate A1 from A2 cows. Some fear a conflict of interest arises here.  In 2004, the same year that A2 Corp. went public on the New Zealand Stock Exchange, Australia’s Queensland Health Department fined A2 marketers $15,000 for making false and misleading claims about the health benefits of its milk and, at least for New Zealand’s Food Safety Minister, the debate was resolved.

The Door is Open to Welcome New Milk

Debate over or not, the A2 Corporation moved forward to market its a2 brand milk in New Zealand and Australia, where its currently accounts for about 8 percent of dairy product sales Down Under. In 2012, A2 expanded distribution through the Tesco chain into Great Britain. Currently a two-liter bottle sells at an 18 percent premium over conventional milk. Building on consumer acceptance in these locations, A2 is poised to re-launch into the U.S. market where they feel, unlike on their previous entry, there are now enough American consumers willing to pay a premium for A2 milk. The good news appears to be that A1 is not the causative agent for diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Ready for Research

In building the A2 hypothesis, it becomes necessary to compare its benefits to the problems of A1 milk. In 1993 Elliott proposed that consumption of A1 milk could account for the unusually high incidence of type-1 diabetes among Samoan children growing up in New Zealand.  A colleague, Corran McLaclan, later found strong correlations between per capita consumption of A2 milk and the prevalence of diabetes and heart disease in 20 countries.  Critics explain the relationships away by other  factors such as diet, lifestyle and exposure to Vitamin D as suggested by research published by  Elliott  and  in the book written by Keith Woodford,(Devil in the Milk: Illness, Health and the Politics of A1 and A2 Milk.). The time is ripe for responsible research to resolve these issues.

Coming to A Grocery Store Near You

A2 Corporation is understandably cautious about suggesting that consuming its products is a solution to preventing serious diseases.  Their marketing emphasizes instead the digestive benefits of its fluid milk, fresh cream and infant formula products. Regardless of your current position in this “Battle of the Milks”, when it comes to the health of the next generation, we all need to take a stand. Worldwide A2 Corporation is into several years of expansion into the UK, Ireland and China.

A2 From the Farm to the Table

Along with being exposed to new dairy products, today’s consumer wants verification for what they are being sold. A2 Corp. explains that the company’s farmer-suppliers use DNA analysis of tail hair from each cow to certify she is producing A2 milk, which is kept segregated through processing.  They also report that it is now possible to convert a herd of A1-producing cows to A2- producing cows. They are working with selected dairies that are making this conversion and test-marketing A2 milk in a number of U.S. states.

A1, A2 and AI

AI companies are well aware of the A1/A2 debate and are taking steps to stay up on new developments.  Many US and Canadian AI companies keep records of the A1/A2 genetics of their genetic offerings. The development of A2 producing Holsteins is gaining momentum and breeders with long term vision are phasing out A1 cows and are confident they can maintain high production throughout the transition. At the leading edge are those who seek niche markets using the A2 dominant breeds such as Jersey, Guernsey and Normande.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

As with any other health claim, there will be early adopters and those who wait until the facts are all in.  I can’t help but ask, “When was the last time, you were absolutely certain of the nutritional science behind all the food you eat?”  Having said that, it isn’t difficult to accept the proposition that there are certain people in the population, particularly babies, who react severely to the A1 protein.  Four fifths of our family can dine delightfully on shellfish without incident.  Our baby risks anaphylactic shock from merely sniffing some on a buffet. So back to A1 and A2.  Is the market big enough for both?  Is one right?  The other one wrong?  The spotlight is on milk in a positive way. Sometimes we spend so much time defending the tradition that we miss the opportunity of bringing a whole new consumer into the dairy aisle.



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“Got Milk” is becoming “Got More”

Monday, August 12th, 2013

“Drink your milk.”  Dairy farmers aren’t the only ones who have been raised with this mantra and its follow-up don’t-argue-with-me reasoning, “It’s good for you!”  There are many parenting proverbs that haven’t stood the test of time. but milk`s goodness has.

Milk has Already Got More Good Stuff

There is significant recent scientific research to prove that milk contains several disease- fighting compounds. Research is also evaluating the potential health benefits of proteins that are found in milk.

Cows are Putting More Good Stuff Into the Milk

With the proof of milks’ already healthy properties, comes the good news that scientists have learned that these properties can be increased by feeding cows specialized diets. The potential is definitely here for dairy farmers to change the way they feed their cows and thereby raise the health-enhancing properties of milk.

For example, in a recent study, Oregon State researchers were able to increase the level of omega-3 fatty acids in milk.  They also were able to decrease the amount of saturated fat.  Both these results came through feeding flaxseed to cows. This is great news for consumer health.  Less cholesterol and more omega-3 fatty acids in our human diet reduces the risk of heart disease.

What More Has Milk Got for Me?

Research trials have shown that consuming butter with elevated levels of CLA can reduce the size of cancerous tumors. CLA is Conjugated Linoleic Acid and is a naturally occurring anti-carcinogen. Researchers at several universities, including Cornell. have discovered they can increase the level of cis-9 trans-all CLA by feeding cows certain nutrients.

Other news from this area reports that a2 brand milk comes from cows specially selected to produce A2 beta-casein protein rather than A1. Most cow milk contains both types of beta-casein protein – A2 and A1. The A1 beta-casein protein has been linked with digestion and health issues so having more A2 is a plus.

A2 Corporation, the manufacturer of a2 brand milk products, targets three areas of growth: building its beverage business in Australia and New Zealand, capturing niche shares of global milk and dairy product markets and developing an infant formula business with an initial focus on China.  In April 2012, they announced a strategic agreement with Synlait Milk Limited in New Zealand to manufacture a2 brand nutritional powders, including milk powders and infant formulas for A2C.  According to A2C managing director Geoffrey Babidge, the a2 brand’s growing credibility will provide a platform for the firm’s expansion plans in the UK, Ireland and China. In December 2012 production of the China-destined a2 branded infant formula was set to begin.

Milk has Got to Have More Taste!

When a food has earned the label “good for us”, we sometimes choose not to eat or drink it claiming it doesn’t register on our taste scale.  Since the 1970s milk consumption has been declining and certainly consumer taste preferences are part of that statistic.  In the U.S. the volume of total liquid dairy is declining. Consumption of white milk is forecast to decline by 6.5% between 2011 and 2015.  But then comes the “good taste” news.  Consumption of flavored milk is growing and expected to increase to 9.5% by 2015. Flavored milk, the second most widely consumed Liquid Dairy Product (LDP) after white milk, is forecast to increase globally by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.1% between 2012 and 2015, rising from 17.0 billion liters to 19.2 billion liters.

The World Wants More Flavors

In the past five years, 2009 to 2013, four emerging countries – Brazil, China, India and Indonesia – are driving the increased demand for flavored milk. While developing countries accounted for 66% of flavored milk consumption, this is forecast to rise to 69% by 2015.

Research shows that China, South Asia and Southeast Asia drink more than half the world`s flavored milk. In fact, just six Asian countries – China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand – consume 47% of the world`s flavored milk.  This highlights that emerging economies are the growth engines of the dairy industry.

North America`s Got Apple Pie Milk and More

While not leading the consumption of flavored milk, North America is certainly not out of this tasteful picture.  Just in time for birthday celebrations on Independence Day Shatto Milk Co. of Osborn, Mo., stocked store shelves with apple pie-flavored milk to celebrate its own 10th anniversary.  Other flavors this flavorful company produces include cherry chocolate and mint chocolate milk. According to Dennis Jonsson, President and CEO of Tetra Pak Group “For consumers unwilling to compromise on taste, health or convenience, flavored milk is proving to be an increasingly popular alternative to other beverages.”

Flavored Milk’s Got More with Less Packaging

Cartons have become the established packaging format for flavored milk, according to Tetra Pak.  They accounted for 62% RTD (ready to drink) flavored milk packaging in 2012, up from 57% in 2009, and are expected to rise to above 64% in 2015. Portion packs are expected to reach 81% of RTD flavored milk consumption.

Milk’s Got More Added Value

Whether you`re attracted to milk for its high nutrition, health benefits or good taste, milk products today can meet a huge range of  needs.  It starts with the desire for nutritious and healthy food.  Developing countries are turning to nutrient-rich milk products.  In prosperous urbanized areas of the world the fast pace of modern life demands tasty, flavored milk in convenient packaging. Consumers are eager to try new and unusual food and drinks. New varieties of milk products will most definitely increase milk consumption.  Additionally, these “designer” dairy products could sell for premium prices.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Kudos to dairy producers, the scientific community and marketing wizards.  The production of milk with so many “Got-More” features means we are improving the health of the consumer and the health of the dairy industry simultaneously! Now that’s more like it!  So “Drink your milk!  It’s good for you!”

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