The humble milkman – a regular sight on most British streets throughout the 20th century – was almost consigned to the history books by the rise of the supermarkets.
But now, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, these dairy deliverers on their electric floats are busier than ever as they try to keep up with newfound demand for their services.
Dairies are reporting a boom in customer numbers, with some recruiting hundreds of milkmen and women to help deal with the extra workload as shoppers try to reduce, or forgo, their trips to supermarkets.
Scott Hughes, owner of Jackson’s Dairies in Stockport, which sources all its milk from farmers in the Peak District, said he first noticed an upsurge in orders when the virus hit China in January. Since then, the “phones have not stopped ringing”.
Meanwhile, the country’s largest milk and groceries doorstep delivery service, Milk & More, is currently suspending new customer sign-ups, after reporting an increase of 25,000 customers. It has begun a recruitment campaign for 100 milk deliverers.
Britain’s remaining milk delivery companies have been forced to adapt in recent years, and online orders have replaced rolled-up notes inside used bottles. Many have diversified by adding grocery items to deliveries, from bread, bacon and eggs to toilet roll and even compost.
Trade association Dairy UK said 89% of all milk bought in Britain in 1980 was on the doorstep but many firms closed because of changing consumer habits, and cheaper competition from supermarkets.
In the mid-1990s, just 30% of milk was still delivered, falling to 2.8% in 2015 with many of the customers mainly elderly people.
Growing consumer concern about plastic waste has led to a gentle increase in demand in recent years for doorstep deliveries of the reusable bottles. But the slight upward curve has now become mountainous.
Dr Judith Bryans, chief executive of Dairy UK, said many of its members had seen huge increases in demand for milk deliveries as a result of the Covid-19 crisis.
Read more via The Guardian