The Guardian has uncovered a fascinating presentation detailing how Coles handled the farmers’ protests and political backlash around its introduction of Coles brand milk at $1 a litre.
The presentation was delivered by Coles’ general manager of corporate affairs Robert Hadler to the Centre for Corporate Public Affairs on 26 June.
Hadler said Coles had aimed to address demand for lower prices from “the silent majority” of its customers when it cut 2-litre milk prices from $2.47 for full cream and $2.99 for low-fat milk to $2.
The decision sparked “the inevitable farmer protest”, “a lot of angry farmer meetings” and “grandstanding agri-politicians”, he said, referring to NSW Senator Bill Heffernan and Queensland MP Bob Katter.
Coles attempted to “neutralise the noise” by monitoring opponents, educating and lobbying uncommitted members of the public through a “Debunk the myths Coles Fact Sheet” and advertising, and engaging with supporters on social media.
The “game changer”, Hadler said, was Coles’ $2.6 million, 10-year agreement to directly source milk with the Murray Goulburn farmers cooperative and Norco.
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