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May 23, 2018

Oakhurst taps social media to create 'Wild Blueberry Milk' brand

Photo / James McCarthy Oakhurst's new Wild Blueberry Milk is hitting store shelves this week, following a year of product development that included using social media to get feedback from consumers during every step of the process.

Oakhurst Dairy, which describes itself as “northern New England’s leading dairy brand,” is launching a flavored whole milk that uses wild blueberries sourced from Wyman’s of Maine.

The Portland-based dairy company announced Tuesday that its Wild Blueberry Milk  will start hitting store shelves on Friday. It will be sold in quarts and pints in the dairy and refrigerated sections of grocery and convenience stores for a from May to October.

“We’ve been amazed at the energy and excitement around our Wild Blueberry Milk and are eager to get it into the hands of milk and blueberry lovers all over Northern New England,” John Bennett, president of Oakhurst Dairy. Oakhurst was owned by the Bennett family until January 2014, when it became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Dairy Farmers of America, a dairy farmer-owned cooperative based in Kansas City, Mo.

In a news release announcing the new flavored milk brand, Oakhurst reported that the idea for Wild Blueberry Milk started about a year ago with a Facebook post on April Fool’s Day that playfully suggested Oakhurst might launch a jelly bean milk. “Our Facebook fans went crazy about the idea of a new flavored whole milk,” said Bennett. “We had been thinking about expanding our line of flavored premium milks for months, and this excitement, combined with renewed consumer interest in whole milk, crystallized our decision.”

There were some sound business reasons behind the decision to pursue that idea further: According to Dairy Business, whole milk sales are up 2.4% this year and flavored whole milk sales are up 9.2%.

“Consumers are rediscovering the health benefits of whole milk resulting in higher national sales,” Oakhurst stated in its news release.

In developing a new flavored milk, Oakhurst decided to engage its customers in every step of the process, including asking them to weigh in on the flavor choice. The overwhelming response: wild blueberry.

Oakhurst said it also asked customers to help select the package design, which resulted in a slightly different look from its traditional flavored whole milk packaging.

“We knew we had something special when our package design Facebook post went viral, and led to news coverage in Food and Wine, and Bon Appétit and a call from ABC’s The Chew asking for an advance taste even before we had a final formulation,” said Bennett.

Like its Super Premium Chocolate Milk, the company’s top-selling flavored milk that leads flavored whole milk sales in both Maine and New Hampshire, the new Wild Blueberry Milk combines whole milk with premium flavors.

Blueberries from Maine

Courtesy / Wild Blueberry Association of North America)
Oakhurst Dairy's new flavored milk uses wild blueberries sourced in Maine.

Oakhurst reported that it's sourcing its wild blueberries from Wyman’s of Maine to create the distinctive wild blueberry flavor in the new offering.

“Living in Maine, we know that our state’s iconic berry tastes so much better than ordinary blueberries,” said Bennett. “From a flavor profile perspective, it was important to have the more intense blueberry flavor that wild blueberries offer.”

Nancy McBrady, executive director of the Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine, loved the idea when she learned about it.

“It just makes sense,” she said. “Wild blueberries are part of the fabric of life here in Maine and Northern New England. Most of us remember picking and eating wild blueberries on a mountain top or along a hike as children. The idea of combining Oakhurst milk — the natural goodness of Maine — with our iconic wild blueberry is a great idea. It’s everything you love about Maine in a bottle.”

Oakhurst’s Wild Blueberry Milk will be sold throughout Northern New England in Hannaford, Market Basket and Walmart, at independent grocery stores and at convenience stores including Big Apple and Circle K. Prices may vary depending on location and retailer.

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