They've Got Milk
School officials in five districts are hoping the milk-mustachioed teen idols in the dairy industry's popular "Got Milk?" campaign will entice students to choose more nutritious beverages.
The districts have placed milk vending machines, which sell 16-ounce bottles of chocolate-, strawberry-, coffee-, and orange-flavored milk, as well as regular and low-fat varieties, next to soft drink machines in middle and high schools.
The pilot project is intended to test the popularity of the product and the potential for widespread distribution. Photos of Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys, and other pop stars drinking milk adorn the machines.
"Historically, milk has only been available in cafeterias during lunch period. This makes it accessible all day long," said Brad Bachtelle, the president of Bachtelle and Associates in Tustin, Calif., which is conducting the marketing test. "Our objective is not to compete with soda machines, but to coexist."
For health experts who have issued warnings about the risk of obesity and other health problems associated with excessive consumption of sugar-sweetened soft drinks, and for critics of school contracts with beverage companies, the milk machines are welcome.
"The harmful effect of soft drinks is increasingly well-documented by medical researchers," said Alex Molnar, a professor of education at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the director of the Center for the Analysis of Commercialism in Education. "There's no question that replacing soft drinks with milk is a net step forward."
But health professionals caution that the flavored milk varieties have about the same number of calories as soft drinks and can be high in fat.
The machines are being pilot-tested in Austin, Texas; Boston; Miami-Dade County; Omaha, Neb.; and Southern California. So far, the products have been popular, with sales of more than 200 bottles a week for each machine.
—Kathleen Kennedy Manzo
Vol. 20, Issue 32, Page 3