Fonterra shuns the sun with ‘game changing’ new innovation, Colenso rounds up a herd of vampire cows

Fonterra, in what it’s calling a game changer for the dairy industry, the most significant innovation project Anchor has ever undertaken and a world-first, has launched a light-proof three-layer bottle that claims to improve the taste of milk. And the campaign by Colenso BBDO uses a herd of magical, sun-avoiding glass cows to promote the benefits of the new technology. 

Given the propensity for hyperbole in this business, our ears prick up whenever phrases like game changing, ground-breaking or world first are mentioned (Domino’s got a social media serve for its non-game changing innovation recently). But the crux of the story is that Anchor’s innovation team identified that light ages milk and cream, breaking down its fresh taste and natural goodness. Milk is well-protected from light during its journey from grass to glass, but once it hits the bottle, exposure to light is inevitable and this impacts its taste. Hence the new bottle. 

Craig Irwin, group marketing manager for Fonterra Brands, says the idea seems quite simple, but there’s “actually ground-breaking technology” involved (it’s almost the same weight as the previous bottle despite the extra layers and is also recyclable, but it isn’t patentable), so “it’s great to bring some really exciting news to a market that been seen as a bit of commodity” in recent times and try to give consumers a reason to drink more milk. 

According to the Herald’s story on Fonterra’s Milk in Schools initiative, milk consumption went from 139 litres a head a year in 1974 to 94.6 litres a head in 1997, when official statistics ended. Consumption has fallen by about one percent a year in the past six years. And Fonterra says the average New Zealander now consumes about 1.8 litres per week. But Irwin says New Zealand is still third on the list of countries with the highest per capita consumption and it’s still undoubtedly one of the world’s dairy capitals. 

“Over the last six years we’ve dipped off slowly, but it’s up to us to as a big part of the industry to grow that,” he says. ” … This innovation [which was three years in the making]is about reversing that trend and giving people more enjoyment from their milk, and, for many, a reason to reconsider drinking fresh white milk altogether.”

He doesn’t believe price has been a determining factor in the decreasing consumption, and instead believes it’s more due to the changing population mix in New Zealand and the massive range of beverage choices now available. 

Even though the milk going into the bottle hasn’t changed (and is the same price), Anchor’s research shows that seven out of ten people preferred the taste of light proof milk. And of particular relevance to a nation of flat white drinkers, blind taste tests revealed that seven out of ten baristas and seven out of ten consumers preferred the taste of light proof milk in coffee. In addition, he says the performance of milk from a light proof bottle outdoes standard milk for frothing and stretching. This is not only according to baristas who tested the frothing performance, but is confirmed by science, because light-damaged milk contains free-fatty acids that interfere with frothing, so Irwin says a big focus of its marketing efforts will be on the nation’s coffee houses. 

As well as improving taste and protecting some key nutrients that are degraded by light, like vitamins A and B2, he says the new bottles might also reduce waste. 

“In order to judge freshness, a lot of consumers habitually ‘sniff test’ their milk before it goes into the glass, coffee cup or cereal bowl,” says Irwin. “Research shows that around seven percent of all fresh milk is thrown out because people think it smells ‘off’. But what people are smelling is typically the result of light damage. The key insight around light damage is that even a small amount of light is enough to start the process. Packaging options such as fresh milk tetra cartons and white opaque bottles allow between seven percent to 25 percent of light through. This is enough to kick off the process of light damage, generating noticeable changes in taste within two days, and ultimately generating a failed sniff test.”

Irwin says this initiative fits into Fonterra’s—and specifically chief executive Theo Spiering’s—desire to grow its branded business, rather than simply selling commodities to other food producing companies, although the light proof bottles are just for the domestic market at this stage, Irwin says.  

To promote this innovation, Colenso BBDO came up with the idea of a herd of “magical glass cows” trying to avoid the sun and Irwin says “this is by far the creative I’m most proud of in my marketing

“It absolutely lives up to the magnitude of the innovation and I am
excited to see how New Zealand will respond to it,” he says. 


Irwin says the campaign is based around the fact that “nature knows a thing or two and we’ve got to trust in it”. So, if milk was meant to see the light, wouldn’t cows be see-through? 

The campaign is wide and deep, he says, and will feature various TV spots, along with digital media, newspaper wraps, a magazine campaign and OOH executions, as well as plenty of consumer testing and trialling. 

“When they shared this innovation with us two and a half years
ago, we couldn’t wait to get it to market,” says Nick Garrett, managing director of Colenso BBDO. “It’s a game changer for Fonterra and we are extremely proud to have
shared the journey with them.”

To dramatise the nature knows best idea, production house Assembly was brought on board to create a herd of playful, light-avoiding glass cows, a process that took six months and required the development of
unique software code.  

“We have created very unique and sophisticated icons with these
glass cows, highlighting milk’s preciousness and putting milk back on a
pedestal where it belongs,” says Nick
Worthington, creative chairman.



Colenso BBDO

Creative Chairman

Nick Worthington

Creative Director

Levi Slavin

Group Account Director & Senior Strategic

Sue Gill

Account Director

Katherine Sliper

Account Executive

Lucy Hartstone

Client name, title, phone, email

Craig Irwin, Group Marketing Manager

Client name, title, phone, email

Dominic Quin, General Manager Marketing

Client address

Fonterra Brands Ltd, Una Place Takanini

Media Agency


Agency Producer

Jen Storey



Production Company


Production Company Producer

Amanda Chambers


Damon Duncan

Sound Design

Franklin Road – Shane Taipari


Ian McCarroll




Philippe Lods

Post Production (Vis. Effects Co.)


Music – Artist/Title

Franklin Rd

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