The Milkman Makes a Comeback
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Dairy farmer Tim Wilkinson provides home delivery of milk and other foods, a service that offers convenience for his customers. Wilkinson, though, figures there’s an added advantage: people may avoid impulse purchases.

Wilkinson, who operates Rosehill Dairy in northern Utah with his father, Max, and brother, Dane, said the farm made a significant business shift in 1989 when they installed equipment to pasteurize, homogenize and bottle their cows’ milk.

Their home delivery service began with milk and expanded to farm-produced cheese, sour cream and butter. Today, they have partnerships with other farmers and companies that allow them to provide 30 grocery staples such as cereal, bread and eggs. The food, which can be ordered through the dairy’s website, is delivered to more than 5,000 homes, along with restaurants and coffee shops.

“Our product is more expensive, but it’s convenient,” Wilkinson said. “People don’t have to make as many quick stops to the store with our delivery service.”

The farm offers the usual array of milk – whole, reduced-fat, low-fat and fat-free, chocolate and buttermilk – that is about 48 hours fresh from the cow and sold in half-gallon reusable plastic bottles. A team of milkmen makes about 250 total deliveries once a week, placing the products in insulated boxes on customers’ porches.

Wilkinson said many of his clients are in their 70s and 80s and they appreciate the quality and service Rosehill offers. While younger families also enjoy the company’s products, they often are more price-conscious. So, Wilkinson is experimenting with innovative ways that may appeal to this audience, such as working with community supported agriculture (CSA) farms to deliver more produce options.

Home delivery is a throwback to yesteryear. In 1950, more than half of the U.S. milk supply was delivered to homes in glass quart bottles, according to the USDA. The business model began to change in the 1960s with the emergence of supermarkets, including many that processed their own milk. By 2005, the last year for which USDA recorded numbers, only 0.4 percent of U.S. milk delivered to the home.

However, factors such as convenience and consumers’ desire to purchase locally produced food – not to mention a certain nostalgic appeal – is giving new life to an old concept.

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