Opinion

Jack Russell: Another strategic alliance is occurring – the one between ‘Clap’ and ‘Trap’

Jack is fascinated by the news that Fonterra is to form a “strategic alliance” with Coca-Cola. Was there ever such an evocative phrase as “strategic alliance”?

Jack’s thoughts turn to some of the great strategic alliances in history: Gilbert and Sullivan; Massey and Ferguson; Bonnie and Clyde – the list goes on.

We should, Jack supposes, welcome the announcement on the grounds that if any corporation can make dairy-based drinks hip and happening then ‘Coke is it’.

But on another level Jack wonders whether some of our Irish processors have a right to feel…well…a little let down?

‘Think long and hard’

After all it’s only a few weeks ago that the business pages of some of the most esteemed papers were agog at reports that Coca-Cola was on the verge of announcing a dairy processing plant in Co. Cork.

The Irish Times no less (all bow) opined that, having spent €75 million recently on a new production plant for its Fairlife milk in Ontario, Canada, there was speculation that it might use an Irish plant to bring the Fairlife product to Europe.

Not unnaturally, the farm organisations were less concerned with Fairlife and more concerned with ‘Fairprice’: John Finn of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) said that farmers would have to think “long and hard” about supplying to a private purchaser in which “unlike their co-ops, they had neither stake nor control”.

Jack Russell can think of a few lads down around Kilkenny who might be thinking “long and hard” about the price they’re getting from a purchaser in which they, directly or indirectly, are meant to have a stake and some control.

But that’s for another day.

A few ice cubes

Pat McCormack of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) was perhaps more to the point when he observed that “anything that increased competition…and gave the farmers another option had to be welcomed”.

Just as the story was fizzing up, Coca-Cola threw a few ice cubes in there by declaring the whole report as speculative.

And that’s where they left us, waiting by the phone; pining to be asked out; mad for a date; a few drinks; a bite to eat. ‘Friendship perhaps leading to long-term relationship’ as the best classified ads put it.

Now we have to read that they’ve picked the Kiwi over the Coleen. Are we entitled to feel a little jilted?

Jack thinks we are. But we won’t be crying into our pillows just yet.

Jack notes that the strategic alliance aims to capture opportunities in south-east Asia, starting in Vietnam, and will be developed under Coca-Cola’s existing Nutriboost brand.

How interesting, thinks Jack. Do go on.

Go back to that bit about ‘wellness’ and ‘health’

Judith Swales of Fonterra commented on the new alliance in the kind of fluent ‘corporatese’ that our Irish executives have yet to fully master (thanks be to God).

“Both Fonterra and Coca-Cola are committed to disrupting and accelerating the growth of the dairy ready-to-drink category in south-east Asia,” she said, before going on to a point that had the Terrier for the Truth’s ears suddenly upwards and rigid.

“The demand is being driven by consumers’ increased focus on health and wellness and the category is expected to grow on average at more than 5% each year between 2016 and 2020.”

Whoooaa! Hold up there, Judy. Go back to that bit about “wellness” and “health”.

What about moving to the plant-based diet that An Taisce was telling our children about just a few weeks ago?

I thought we were all going to have to reduce consumption of dairy and beef not just for the sake of the planet’s survival – but on grounds of personal wellness and health.

All of us – meaning Vietnam just as much as Multyfarnham.

Apparently not.

Our primary schoolchildren – traditionally fed on a dairy and beef diet – are being told that they should reduce consumption of those foods to save the planet and enhance their personal “health” and “wellness”.

While over in south-east Asia, Coca-Cola and Fonterra are telling the children there – traditionally fed on a plant-based diet – that they should be aiming to increase their dairy-based drinks consumption by 5% each year between 2016 and 2020.

Another strategic alliance is occurring to Jack right now; the one between ‘Clap’ and ‘Trap’.