The Milkman Delivers

Discussion
Jul 09, 2010
George Anderson

By George Anderson

If you’re of a certain age and grew up in America, you probably
remember hearing the sound of clinking glass outside your house early in the
morning as the milkman made his rounds.

While most Americans head off to the
supermarket or other stores to get their milk these days, milkmen have not
totally vanished from the landscape. A case in point is Jim Pastor who with
14 others makes stops at 4,800 homes in Southern California, according to the Los
Angeles Times
.

Mr. Pastor and company deliver milkman staples, including
milk, eggs, cheese, butter and bread. But in keeping with the times, consumers
can also get soy milk, smoothies, pies, quiche, coffee, fresh-squeezed orange
juice and artisan baked goods from Picket Lane Bakery in Orange County. Also
available are seasonal fruits and vegetables from another local supplier, Tanaka
Farms.

“In this day and age, you have to have variety to stay in business,” he
told the Times.

Success of the venture, which comes at a premium price,
is intrinsically tied to goods being locally sourced.

“I like the idea that we are supporting a local business, and a local
dairy,” said
Joanne Irish of Long Beach, a longtime customer of Mr. Parish. “We love
milk, and I just got tired of schlepping milk around.”

Ms. Irish told
the Times of another benefit. “I know this sounds
crazy but we actually did a blind taste test with supermarket milk and the
fresh milk. You can really taste a difference.”

Customers such as Ms. Irish
can receive deliveries up to twice a week or as infrequently as every other
week by going online and signing up at www.wowdelivery.com.
Payment is made by credit card or check and there is no additional fee for
delivery. The company provides customers with an order form if they are looking
to purchase something not on the standard list.

Discussion Questions: Is there a significant niche market for milkmen today?
Do you see milkman services such as that offered by Jim Pastor getting most of
their business from consumers of online grocery sites or others who go to the
convenience store or supermarket to pick up milk and eggs?

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20 Comments on "The Milkman Delivers"


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Richard J. George, Ph.D.
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

The niche market is for fresh, locally sourced products, including but not limited to milk, delivered directly to your door in the early morning hours. This is a classic example of going forward by looking back at what worked in the past.

With today’s dual working parents, traditional delivery of online food orders has been organized around the work schedule of the adult members of the household. However, most everyone is home at 5 AM. The roadways are less congested, meaning more efficient deliveries. Orders can be taken as late as midnight the previous evening, resulting in fresh products available for immediate breakfast consumption.

This is the Amazon Fresh model in the Seattle test market which I understand is going well.

Yes, there are “riches in niches.”

David Livingston
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

Like any other online or home delivery of groceries, there is a demand in higher income, densely populated areas. A lot of high-income households are run like small restaurants. The domestic help that manages the home have more time to serve rather than be shopping.

Dick Seesel
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

I’m one of those “of a certain age” who vividly remembers Wes the milkman delivering his wares to our back door. Do I think there is a niche market here? Yes…but I’m not sure it is significant. Companies like Peapod have grown nationwide because they provide a combination of broad assortments, convenience and reasonably competitive prices compared to local grocers.

But the focus of this operation is on a narrow assortment of dairy and related products, with an emphasis on fresh/local/artisanal as well as premium prices. And let’s face it: As long as the trend toward two-income families isn’t going anywhere soon, the whole concept of waiting for the milkman is largely an exercise in nostalgia.

Nikki Baird
Guest
Nikki Baird
10 years 9 months ago
It’s not quite as simple as buy local, I think. We get our milk from a milkman, a local dairy. We also participate in a farm co-op, where we get a fruit and a veggie share of everything that’s grown on the farm, which is also local. I know I’m the exception rather than the rule, but it really wasn’t miles to market that I was thinking of as my motivator. It’s true that it’s not as cheap as the grocery store, but it’s also in tune with the seasons, it’s local, it’s organic, it’s not laden with hormones and antibiotics, and it helps me teach my children about our food chain–where our food comes from and what has to happen to it before it gets to us. And miles to market (or lack thereof) means it’s fresher. The eggs we get from the dairy have a 2-week longer lifespan than the eggs we get at the grocery store, and I have to think that it’s purely because of the supply chain time it takes… Read more »
Mark Johnson
Guest
Mark Johnson
10 years 9 months ago

I’m not sure there is a value in this today. With the average grocery weekly stops per family above 2 times per week and the C-store stops of 3.2 per week, I think we can get all the milk we need.

Joan Treistman
Guest
10 years 9 months ago
First of all, I kept going back to this sentence…”Mr. Pastor and company deliver milkman staples….” I was waiting for a follow up punch line about all his “Pastorized” dairy products. OK, it’s a bad humor day. Just last night a friend of mine told me about a man who comes around (midtown Manhattan) to sharpen knives and scissors, just like the old days. But she’s not using the service for nostalgia, she prefers sharp knives and scissors and he makes it convenient to fulfill that want. If you want fresh dairy products, what can be fresher (in our minds) than someone delivering them to your door? Oh yes, it’s also very convenient. As with all products and services, we have to understand the hierarchy of needs and wants to determine the most successful way to market them. Beyond that, as marketers we look for the gaps in the marketplace, finding a need or want yet unfulfilled. In this instance it’s about distribution. In another it’s the product itself. But keeping our eyes open for… Read more »
Charlie Moro
Guest
Charlie Moro
10 years 9 months ago

The convenience still continues to be a staple need for consumers and the ability to get local items delivered to their homes seems to be a great niche. The attributes of buying local but using some of the Fresh Direct model in New York of being able to get local restaurant entrees or cuts of meat from the local meat market seems to be something that consumers will see as a benefit. The key question seems to be, when do you cut off your assortment so you are not trying to be all things to all people?

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
10 years 9 months ago

When you live in an urban bee hive
And you don’t wish to the store drive,
Pay the milkman to deliver your goods
Because you are a niche known as “the coulds.”

But when cash is rare and ease isn’t sought
It’s cheaper that at a store eggs are bought
So if riches make you service crazy
Let the milkman come and keep you lazy.

The moral of this tale is not what you do
But rather do door services highlight you.
If that they do, then you enable a niche,
And there’s money in servicing your itch.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

This isn’t the milkman, this is the delivery man. The selection has expanded well beyond milk because customers want other products and the “milkman” is going there anyway. This is bottom-up online groceries.

This service offers something rather than the inconvenience of stopping at the grocery or convenience store on the way home from work to fill-in. This service offers better, fresher products. I don’t think of this as a niche at all, but a real need, essentially made possible, valuable, and convenient by the internet.

Ben Ball
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

Any time people can be convinced that they are getting a SAFE, fresh local product, they will see a benefit if they perceive it as the ticket to “getting the best.” Upscale communities near the coast often have home delivery of fresh seafood right off the truck. This was a real phenomenon when I lived in Plano, Texas for example. On the other hand, few are willing to stop at the “road-side stand” for fresh products the way my parents did regularly in the sixties. Concerns over product handling and safety are just too great.

Trusted services (think Schwann’s home delivery service) and local sources that build credibility will be successful in areas with the density and economic wherewithal to support them.

It is quite intriguing to watch the reemergence of what was once a classic rural behavior as the new “urban chic.” Perhaps I’ll get to go back to the farm full time some day after all.

Dan Berthiaume
Guest
Dan Berthiaume
10 years 9 months ago

I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen a milkman except in old TV shows and movies (I was born in 1970). And based on the less-than-expected customer enthusiasm for the various online delivery services that have popped up in the last 10-15 years, I’m not sure the milkman niche represents that much profit opportunity. Unlike some other posters, I think if this service did work, it would work better in rural areas where it may be a long drive to the nearest grocery store, rather than in densely inhabited areas.

Lee Peterson
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

I believe the “milkman” is actually a metaphor for the modern notion of increased shopping, purchasing, and delivery of goods without going to stores. If we consider the ‘return of the milkman’ as exactly that; the person who delivers commodity goods right to your doorstep — then I believe we’re on the cusp of that person being a huge part of daily life again.

If stores continue to provide a lousy experience (as many do today), why should we shop them if we don’t have to? If a delivery option is available, as it increasingly is, why would I want to spend precious time experiencing poor service, overstocked shelves, bad music and no parking all wrapped up in an antiseptic shell?

I say, bring on the milkman! He’s already providing a much better experience than what I’m feeling on a daily basis at retail. The more milkmen, the more the retail experience will improve–or go away.

Anne Bieler
Guest
Anne Bieler
10 years 9 months ago

Believe there is small, but committed group of shoppers who are looking for local sources for fresh products–fresh organics made convenient. There are small but growing numbers of organic produce coops that deliver a weekly basket to your home, based on family size and preferences. Subscriptions are growing, and consumers are satisfied with the service–know the sources are trusted, produce fresh, and no hassle service provided by real people.

I think this group is continuing their search for healthy products, and dairy would fit right in. In some shopper categories, the amount of money spent to get fresher, safer, more wholesome products is an investment in healthier living.

Kai Clarke
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

This is all about customer service. This model is only for a niche target market because of the expense that is required, but it clearly can (and does) work. The milkman is really a concierge, with an ever expanding offering of products. For now, it is still dairy based, but this will evolve as customers demand more from their service….

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
10 years 9 months ago
The fact that the Milkman still exists is interesting. This made me think of the movie “Back to the Future.” I am from the generation where we did get milk and sometimes eggs delivered. We lived in an apartment complex with many other young families. It seemed then that everyone had a milk carton outside their door. The children were young; and the convenience outweighed everything else. Besides the price for the delivery was not a factor then. By the way, he also delivered ice way back when. This is Customer Service. But not everyone will avail themselves of the opportunity to use the service. I see this service as one pointed to the elite and in outlying upper scale areas. The concept is/was tried by Publix and other grocery chains recently. I do not know if they are still doing it because the trucks I see don’t seem to be moved when I have visited the local stores. I do see this as a niche convenience for some marketers to offer a service shoppers… Read more »
Bernice Hurst
Guest
10 years 9 months ago
If we put this story together with the one about product recall fatigue, there may be a solution to a whole lotta problems. Most of you know by now that I favor small, ambitious, passionate businesses over conglomerates that don’t have the time or willingness to ensure quality. If products are less than acceptable, protesting means going through interminable channels and fighting massive bureaucracy because the company is much more interested in its bottom line. Those recalls are so much cheaper and easier than getting it right in the first place. BUT BUT BUT…what if…small business people (here, euphemistically called Milkmen) actually bought from other small business people and delivered directly to customers? Did I hear someone mention traceability? Oh me, oh my, how the world could change (for the better). There might even be enough competition and choice to keep prices down so consumers didn’t have to be rolling in dough to use them. What we would then have to watch out for is the bright spark who decides it could all be so… Read more »
Craig Sundstrom
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

“Can’t burn ’em, return ’em!!”

Unlike Mr. Berthiaume, I DO remember seeing a milkman (figuratively, of course, I didn’t get up early enough to see one literally) and as I’m only seven years his elder I must have been one of the last; but will we all get to see one again? I think not. As some have alluded, we may see the general concept of home delivery experience a renaissance, but it just won’t be the same.

Steve Montgomery
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

Unlike most of today’s commenters, I was born in rural environment. In fact, I lived on a dairy farm so we were very involved in getting milk to people’s door.

The milkman went away when the c-store industry got started. People simply found it more cost effective to buy milk at a local store than having it delivered.

Those people who know use a delivery service are willing to pay a premium for the product(s) they get. Most people are not. This type of service will likely survive and even prosper in niche markets, but will not (especially in today’s economy) return to its glory days.

Joel Warady
Guest
Joel Warady
10 years 9 months ago

As mentioned before, there is a niche market for “fresh foods delivered to your door,” with milk being one of the offerings. When I was growing up, in addition to the milkman, we had the produce truck visit the block, and the bread truck as well. I think all of these offerings can make a great comeback, in the correct upscale neighborhoods.

Tie it in with technology, and have the fresh trucks send out Tweets when they are pulling into a neighborhood, and you can grow a nice, profitable, and loyal business.

John Crossman
Guest
John Crossman
10 years 9 months ago

In our household of 4, we purchase 3 different types of milk due to food allergies. Our grocery shopping is done primarily at Publix but we have consistent trips to specialty grocers because of the allergies. Our needs are so specialized, I can not see using a milkman or any similar service. The niche seems too narrow and not enough of a market to really work.

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