Talking to South East Farmer in February this year, entrepreneurs behind the new Enjoy Milk brand said their special plastic milk bottles with characteristic black tops would be in shops across the country as cows went out on to their spring grass.

But Rob Ward – commercial adviser on the project who co founded The Grocery Accelerator to create high street food and drink brands – said that as far as he knew, none of the milk had appeared in shops to date. Mr Ward was employed by Somerset farmer Nick Hiscox, who started Enjoy Milk and set up the Free Range Milk Marketing Board (FRMMB) to supply the brand.

Enjoy Milk still runs a Twitter account and the FRMMB still has a website, claiming that it has found 825 million litres of its one billion litre target. But Mr Ward and Mr Hiscox have parted company. “I am not involved any more,” Mr Ward confirmed. “Nick was paying me as an adviser and it got to the point where we decided to go our separate ways.”

Enjoy Milk’s aim was to take milk from about 7,800 dairy farmers who do not have direct supply arrangement with one of the big five supermarkets – Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons and the CoOp. They would be offered fair contracts telling them what they would be paid for the next 12 months and making it easy for them to leave if they wanted to. Every farm supplying Enjoy Milk would be approved, but the definition of free range was not seen as being as important as ensuring cows spent as much time as possible on grass.

But although there is a lot of enthusiasm for the project, South East Farmer understands it has hit some obstacles, including:

  • lack of consumer understanding about the definition of free range;
  • Arla, the giant European dairy cooperative, is already selling organic milk at less than the price of existing free range milk on supermarket shelves;
  • there is already a free range milk product sold under The Free Range Dairy Pasture Promise brand started by another Somerset farmer, Neil Darwent. The milk is already for sale in some Asda and Morrisons stores;
  • before herds went out to spring grass, the plan was to approach regional dairy companies to see if they wanted to carry the Enjoy Milk black top on their cartons. But it was never clear why successful companies would want to do something which could interfere with their own branding;
  • discussions with supermarkets are understood to have been difficult. In one meeting, Tesco is said to have insisted that the Red Tractor assurance scheme was not enough to persuade them to take Enjoy Milk;
  • it was unclear how Enjoy Milk would differentiate its product from organic milk, which is already seen as free range and has come down in price.

South East Farmer approached Mr Hiscox, who said that he did not have time to discuss Enjoy Milk because he was involved with legal advisers on a large property transaction. “The milk is available direct from farms,” Mr Hiscox said. “We said it would be available direct online. A brand’s success is not just about getting it on supermarket shelves.”