I love milk. It’s probably the only thing keeping me alive given my absurd diet, or lack thereof. When I’m eating out or if it’s on sale at the grocery store I’ll often treat myself to a nice tasty Chocolate Milk. I figure it’s the next best thing to white milk and way better than washing down a meal with sugar water pop.
I have noticed lately that Beatrice brand 1% Partly Skimmed Chocolate Milk is being replaced by ‘1% Chocolate Milk Beverage’ in packaging that looks almost identical on store shelves. As a connoisseur of Chocolate Milk I’m intrigued, and ready to take offence at what I find. Yes, messing with Chocolate Milk is offensive. And so the question must be asked, open-mindedly of course: What the fuck is Chocolate Milk Beverage?
My first assumption is that it obviously has so many chemicals in it that it can’t legally be called milk any more. My usual allies Wikipedia and Google have failed me in my quest to identify what it is, and where exactly the line is between milk and milk beverage. The websites of Beatrice and Parmalat (their parent company) also didn’t have the information I was looking for. Real chocolate milk is listed, but not their new concoction. What to do?? Without so much as a press release, it’s obvious they intended to do this quietly.
On November 10th, I decided to send Beatrice an e-mail via their website to get to the bottom of this.
I have noticed recently that your ‘1% Chocolate Milk’ is being replaced by ‘1% Chocolate Milk Beverage.’ Last week my local Metro store handily had your 1L ‘chocolate milk beverage’ beside the 2L ‘chocolate milk’ for comparison. I saw the long list of ingredients in the former and decided not to purchase. Today at Tim Horton’s, I received your ‘chocolate milk beverage’ in lieu of the ‘chocolate milk’ that I had ordered, and decided to write you to find out what the story is.
I have a few questions:
– What is ‘Chocolate Milk Beverage’?
– Why is it not called ‘Chocolate Milk’?
– Why is it being positioned as a replacement for ‘Chocolate Milk’ (e.g. same packaging) rather than an alternative?
– In this age of heightened awareness about what people eat and drink, is your company not concerned that substituting ‘chocolate milk beverage’ for actual ‘chocolate milk’ (a la Coke 2) will hurt sales?
I don’t expect anything more than a canned response, if that.
What really started this whole thing? Metro’s flyer this week pictured and described real chocolate milk. When I went to buy some, they’d clearly received skids of the other stuff in the two stores that I visited. I’m a little miffed.
I started getting a bit worked up about the whole thing while writing about it and decided to send an e-mail to Metro too. If I bother enough people, someone ought to respond, eh? The following was sent on November 11th.
I had a couple of questions about the 1L Beatrice Chocolate Milk that was prominently featured in this week’s flyer. I have noticed recently that Beatrice’s Chocolate Milk (as was pictured in the flyer) is being replaced by “Chocolate Milk Beverage” in your stores. I have noticed that these products contain different ingredients but have similar packaging. My questions to you:
– Was this change imposed by Beatrice upon Metro?
– Why was Chocolate Milk pictured and described in this week’s flyer when a substantial shipment of Chocolate Milk Beverage was sent instead to at least two of your Toronto-area stores?
Both stores I visited had some older stock of 2L Beatrice Chocolate Milk for easy comparison. After seeing the frighteningly long list of ingredients in this Chocolate Milk Beverage I decided not to purchase it, despite the attractive sale price.
I enjoy Chocolate Milk quite a bit, but I will not be purchasing Chocolate Milk Beverage. I would ask you to please pressure Beatrice to bring back it’s real Chocolate Milk, or switch suppliers to a company that still produces real Chocolate Milk, such as Sealtest.
I look forward to your response!
Metro sent me an automated acknowledgement with a commitment to respond within two business days.
While I wait for their responses, aren’t there some kind of laws that regulate truth in advertising? It just so happens that we have a little gem called the Competition Act. Part VII.1 Deceptive Marketing Practices discusses this at length. I’m no lawyer, but as far as I understand it there are a few relevant sections:
- Misrepresentations to public
- General impression to be considered
- Representations accompanying products
It would, of course, be up to a court to decide if this particular misrepresentation was “false or misleading in a material respect.”
Back to the question. Let’s see what Health Canada’s Food and Drug Regulations on Dairy Products say about flavoured milk. The following excerpt is from Food and Drug Regulations Part B Division 1-14 dated June 2004:
B.08.018. [S]. (naming the flavour) Partly (Partially) Skimmed Milk
16-7-74 (a) shall be the product made from
(i) milk, milk powder, skim milk, skim milk powder, partly skimmed milk, evaporated milk, evaporated partly skimmed milk, evaporated skim milk or cream or any combination thereof,
(ii) a flavouring preparation, and
(iii) a sweetening agent;
16-8-78 (b) shall contain more than 0.3 per cent and less than 3.0 per cent milk fat;
(c) shall, notwithstanding sections D.01.009 and D.01.010, contain added vitamin A in such an amount that a reasonable daily intake of the milk contains not less than 1200 International Units and not more than 2500 International Units of vitamin A;
25-11-75 (d) shall contain added vitamin D in such an amount that a reasonable daily intake of the milk contains not less than 300 International Units and not more than 400 International Units of vitamin D;
12-9-84 (e) may contain salt, food colour, lactase, stabilizing agent and not more than 0.5 per cent starch; and
5-8-82 (f) may contain not more than 50,000 total aerobic bacteria per cubic centimetre, as determined by official method MFO-7, Microbiological Examination of Milk, November 30, 1981.
Interestingly this section says nothing about the milk content itself, only what’s allowed in it. I guess it would be too easy if it said something like “must contain 95% milk.” Unfortunately there is no mention of ‘milk beverages’ in that document, so I’ll have to assume that Beatrice’s Chocolate Milk Beverage simply fails one or more of the above criteria. Given the longer list of ingredients, I’m going to go with (e). I hope it’s not the bacteria thing… eww.
I’ll post an update when I get some sort of response from Beatrice and Metro. Their customer service departments have a chance to shine by responding promptly, with an informative, human response that actually answers my questions. Care to place bets?
In the meantime, watch out for substitutions like Chocolate Milk Beverage in place of the real thing.
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