Experience innovation, existing components

In the 80’s, the largest milk producer in Sweden – Arla – was facing a decline in milk drinking. From being a standard drink at all meals, milk had started to be considered fattening and was now losing market share to mineral waters etc. Especially in restaurants this was evident – people were drinking other things than milk.

So how could Arla make people drink more milk again? Well regarding the restaurants there did not seem to be much hope to persuade people to drink milk with their food. But they did put milk in their coffee. What about making people have more milk in their coffee?

The solution was to introduce Café au Lait in Sweden. Filter coffee and hot milk in equal proportions. Just as in France, where you often get this for breakfast in hotels. (What you have in a café is not café au lait, but “café crème” which is espresso with hot milk.)

For several years Arla made charming campaigns, commercial spots with Frenchmen explaining the “recipe”. “Le café, et le lait, aaah! Le nectar de la nature!“. They made first round bowls (as in the picture) and later also cups with the Café au lait logotype.

What I like about this story is that it was a case of innovation, based on experience and a cultural theme, while all the physical components – well the coffee and the milk – already were present in the cafés and restaurants. Still, it was perceived as something completely new and enjoyable. This also paved way for the upcoming latte trend, when cafés invested in espresso machines that make stronger coffee, so that you can add even more milk… So that Arla can… Yes, you get it.

Be innovative. Play with existing components. Just add experience!

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