Agrifoods gets license for A1 protein-free milk brand

Dairy co-op to bring New Zealand's a2 Milk brand to Canada

A major Canadian dairy co-operative specializing in organic and grass-fed products is entering the market for A1 protein-free milk with a license for a major international brand.

Agrifoods Cooperative announced Wednesday it has an exclusive licensing agreement with New Zealand-based a2 Milk Co. to process and sell dairy products under the a2 Milk brand in Canada.

a2 Milk Co., in a separate release, said it’s expected that “a range of liquid milk products will be launched (in Canada) later this calendar year.”

“A1 protein-free” refers to cows’ milk that exhibits only the A2 beta-casein protein, rather than the combinations of A1 and A2 beta-casein proteins in most milk.

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Studies cited by producers of A1 protein-free milk suggest certain people who get gastrointestinal (GI) discomfort from consuming milk — including some who believe they’re lactose-intolerant — may instead be sensitive to a protein that’s released as A1 is digested.

From that, Agrifoods said Wednesday, a2 Milk Co. has had “proven success in growing the dairy industries in the markets in which it operates, including Australia where it has now achieved over 11 per cent market share.”

Certain dairy cows, by virtue of their genetics, naturally produce A1 protein-free milk. Any dairy farmer wanting to produce such milk would have to select, through genetic testing, for an “A2A2” genotype in a herd, since cattle with an “A1A1” or “A1A2” genotype would produce milk containing A1 proteins or both A1 and A2.

According to the Canadian Dairy Network (CDN), which manages genetic evaluation data for the dairy sector, breeds with a higher frequency of the A2A2 genotype include Jersey, Brown Swiss and Guernsey.

Any producer who wants to supply an A1 protein-free market would need to either keep only “A2A2” cows or divert milk from “A2A2” cows into a separate milk tank, CDN said.

‘Certified’

The terms of the deal call for a2 Milk Co. to provide Agrifoods with access to its IP and marketing assets as well as its “proprietary systems and know-how relating to the sourcing and processing of a2 Milk.”

The New Zealand company, which has been in business since 2000 and already has brand presence in the U.S., China, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Korea, said it will also “work with Agrifoods and local Canadian dairy farmers to source milk locally.”

Meanwhile, Agrifoods — whose brand portfolio already includes Meadowfresh, Organic Meadow, Rolling Meadow, Happy Planet and others — “will leverage its substantial capabilities in-market to establish distribution across Canada and has primary responsibility for funding this venture,” a2 Milk Co. said.

Some Canadian dairies, such as B.C.-based D Dutchmen Dairy and Ontario’s Sheldon Creek Dairy, already market what they call “A2 milk” under their own brands. It remains to be seen how the arrival of the trademarked a2 Milk brand in Canada will affect those businesses.

Under the terms of its brand license, the A1 protein-free milks produced in Canada and marketed through Agrifoods “will be the first and only milk certified as A1 protein-free under the a2 Milk brand in Canada,” the co-operative said Wednesday.

Agrifoods, with the license in hand, “will leverage the a2 Milk brand’s global success to create and grow consumer and retailer demand for these products in Canada.”

“Agrifoods’ proven expertise and experience combined with their infrastructure, established member network of dairy farmers and focus on long-term growth makes this an excellent partnership,” A2 Milk Co. CEO Blake Waltrip said in Agrifoods’ release.

Agrifoods chair Tim Hofstra said the deal offers a “tremendous” opportunity to grow the co-operative’s overall positions in specialty milks “by offering consumers more choices for authentic, farmer-owned, Canadian dairy products.”

Also, he said, “a2 Milk-branded milks will give lapsed milk drinkers the reason needed to come back to the dairy case.”

Ben Janzen, chair of the B.C. Milk Marketing Board, also hailed the Agrifoods announcement as “a big win for Canadian dairy, highlighting both the future focus and innovation of our industry.”

Dairy Farmers of Canada, as recently as 2017, has said evidence is limited to some small clinical trials in humans to assess GI tolerance of milk with A1 and/or A2 proteins, and that the evidence is “weak and inconclusive” on whether A1 may affect digestive function in some people with milk intolerance.

“More research is needed… in order to establish the validity of this hypothesis,” DFC said in a 2017 sheet distributed to health educators. Alberta Milk, on its website, agrees on the need for more research and noted such research is happening.

DFC also noted that other milks, including goat, sheep and water buffalo milk as well as human breast milk, can also be considered “A2.” — Glacier FarmMedia Network

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