The “global first” of $5 a litre “raw” milk has not been the innovation goldmine the founders of diary tech startup Made by Cow had hoped, with the business placed in voluntary administration last week and closing its doors.
The Sydney startup developed a patented method to treat milk so it was safe to drink without using heat pasteurisation, calling it “cold pressed raw milk” – a riff on the technique used by the extra virgin olive oil industry. While milk is normally heated to 72°C to kill bacteria and make it safe for human consumption, Made By Cow developed technology to treat it in the bottle using high pressure to eliminate pathogens and retain more nutrients. It also gave the milk a six week shelf life.
Unpasteurised milk – it’s illegal to sell for human consumption – became a fad in Australia around a decade ago, using a loophole as a cosmetic product or “bath” milk. Authorities clamped down after a child in Victoria died in 2014 after drinking raw milk.
Made By Cow pioneered a legal alternative in around 2016, and within a few years the product, made using milk from a Jersey herd on the NSW South Coast, was available in leading supermarket chains including Harris Farm, IGA and Coles. It was founded by food entrepreneur Saxon Joye, cofounder of Care Food Co and Jucci.
But last week the dream soured and CEO Wade Porter handed the business over to Kate Conneely and Scott Kershaw at KordmaMentha under voluntary administration, as well as shutting down production at Homebush in Sydney’s west.
Porter said in a post to Instagram that it was “a very tough decision has been made to cease production” but the “business has faced economic uncertainty and supply chain challenges” amid rising interest rates and inflation.
“We are proud of our incredible journey and to have created a truly innovative product that was enjoyed by thousands of loyal customers,” he said.
“In recent years we have been on a strong trajectory with our business growing upwards of 50% year-on-year.”
Porter thanked his devoted customer base.
“We started as an unknown dairy brand trying to do something different and have grown into a brand so many of you love,” he wrote.
“Thank you for believing in us, the growing demand and love for our milk has made every day of hard work worthwhile.”
When Made By Cow held a media launch in mid 2019, Porter said at the time that he’d been contacted by several countries interested in the patent technology they’d developed.
That IP and the company’s equipment could have appeal to potential buyers, but the fresh milk market remains a highly competitive and low margin sector, despite the high levels of consumption of dairy by Australians.
KordaMentha has been contacted for comment. A first meeting of creditor is scheduled for June 6.