Until the 1990s, having your milk dropped to your doorstep by your local milkman was the norm. Today, it's less common, but one milk company has said it's had a huge spike in customers since the pandemic
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Doorstep milk is making a huge comeback, and it's great for the environment, too (Image: Totally Welsh)

Many who grew up before the 1990s will remember opening the front door on a fresh blustery morning to find six glass bottles filled to the brim with fresh milk, dropped off by a milkman who you likely knew on a first-name basis.

Fast-forward to 2022 and the purchase of milk is a far less glamorous affair. Through the noughties, milkmen slowly fell out of fashion as supermarket giants gained a stronghold over the dairy industry, selling off cheap milk in plastic bottles – no strings attached.

In some parts of Wales, though, the milkman seems to be making something of a grand come-back. In Swansea and Cardiff in particular, demand for traditional doorstep milk is surging, and it has something to do with sustainability, as well as nostalgia.

One person who has discovered the joys of having their milk dropped off on their doorstep is Sheila Pryce, a 56-year-old woman from Cockett.

Sheila said: “I’ve been using the milkman for about eight years now. I saw him out there one night when I was putting the bins out, and I realised I had no milk in the house. It was a double whammy – I got myself two pints for the morning, and I now get to support a local business.

“It’s fab knowing that I don’t have to worry about remembering to get milk from the shop, and knowing my pint will be there for my morning cuppa.”

Sheila Pryce, pictured, started her milk subscription eight years ago and hasn’t looked back since. (Image: Sheila Pryce)

Sheila grew up in Dunvant in the 1970s, a time where having milk delivered was the norm. She said: “I grew up in Dunvant in the 70s, so it was the norm to have it delivered. The only difference is that I pay by direct debit now. It’s not as personal as it was back then, but my milkman does leave daffodils for St David’s Day, and occasional other bits through the year.”

The doorstep milk business is also booming in Cardiff with customers old and new.

Jay Jordan, a self-described “trendy fifty-something-year-old” living in Cardiff, said that the milkman was a life-line for her and her husband through the pandemic, particularly with her husband in the extremely vulnerable category.

She said: “Our milkman has been delivering to us for 23 years now. His name is Steve and he is superb, he’s like twinkle toes in the middle of the night. He’s been doing this for a very long time and it will be really hard to ever replace him.

“The milkman service was incredibly important to us throughout the pandemic because my husband has always been in the most vulnerable category. We don’t just order milk from them (Totally Welsh) either, we order vegetables, welsh cakes, garden products and even cleaning products. I will only use their butter.”

The milkman of today comes to deliver much more than just milk (Image: Totally Welsh)

Jay also orders doorstep milk for her 90-year-old mother who lives in Swansea. He said: “Another thing I like about using the service is that I can order milk for my 90-year-old mother who lives a while away in Swansea. I think everyone should support their local milkman. When it comes to this sort of thing, you get out what you put in. You have to appreciate the service for it to work efficiently and effectively. You have to nurture it and cherish and and love it.”

One milk company that’s noticed the surge in demand for doorstep milk is Totally Welsh, a local dairy that’s based in Haverfordwest.

Totally Welsh now deliver fresh milk and other goods to the doorsteps of 8000 homes in Cardiff and Swansea – roughly 80,000-100,000 glass bottles a week.

A spokesman for Totally Welsh said: “The numbers have grown a fair amount over the past few years from around 5000 to 8000, and that’s still growing. We were heavily relied upon through the pandemic, and I think people really came to appreciate being on a first name basis with their milkman. We were initially concerned there’d be a fall back after the pandemic as everyone went back to work, but there really was hardly any change.

“There has been a shift toward local businesses within communities – people like to know who their local butcher is, who their local fruit and veg suppliers are. Having a local milk man who you know on a first name basis, and who you can rely upon, is a great experience.

“We are still that traditional milkman – nothing has really changed. We deliver the milk in glass bottles and then sterilise them to use again. A big focus for us is on the sustainability of the glass bottle.”

The spokesman acknowledged that doorstep milk isn’t as cheap as supermarket milk, but customers are paying for a better service, and more often than not, better produce.

He also added that there is no pattern or ‘type’ of household that uses the milkman service, either.

“There’s no real difference in demographics when it comes to who orders doorstep milk. In Swansea, we deliver across the board and there’s no real difference in areas of affluence. Gorseinon, Llanelli and Port Talbot are fairly popular spots, but there’s really no pattern. Townhill is also a popular one.”

Australians are being warned of another price hike, with the cost of milk set to go up.

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