Rising living costs, supply chain disruptions, and ongoing supermarket ‘milk wars’ have seen the price of milk skyrocket, with Coles and Woolworths recently passing on a 60c price hike on homebrand milk to cover rising farmgate prices paid to producers. The latest price increase is already putting pressure on stretched family budgets, with more price pains to come amid rising inflation. To help consumers get the most bang for their buck when buying milk, Canstar Blue has produced this guide to the cheapest milk brands.
Our latest consumer survey revealed a fifth of Aussies (21%) buy whichever brand of milk is cheapest when they go shopping, although a whopping 57% of people would be willing to pay more per litre to support dairy farmers (more on that below).
Milk brand prices compared
This table compares milk prices of some major brands across Australia (excluding non-dairy alternatives):
|Fresh milk 1L||Fresh milk 2L||Fresh milk 3L||Long life milk 1L|
|Woolworths||$1.60 ($1.60/L)||$3.10 ($1.55/L)||$4.50 ($1.50/L)||$1.60 ($1.60/L)|
|Coles||$1.60 ($1.60/L)||$3.10 ($1.55/L)||$4.50 ($1.50/L)||$1.60 ($1.60/L)|
|ALDI farmdale||$1.59 ($1.59/L)||$3.09 ($1.55/L)||N/A||$1.35 ($1.35/L)|
|Black & Gold (IGA)||N/A||N/A||N/A||$1.35 ($1.35/L)|
|Devondale||N/A||$3.80 ($1.90/L)||$5.30 ($1.77/L)||$1.90 ($1.90/L)|
|Dairy farmers||$2.15 – $2.25 ($2.15 – $2.25/L)||$3.30 – $3.55
($1.65 – $1.77/L)
|$5.00 – $5.25
($1.67 – $1.75/L)
|$2.50 – $2.69
($2.50 – $2.69/L)
|Maleny (QLD only)||$3.20 ($3.20/L)||$5.30 ($2.65/L)||$7.70 ($2.56/L)||N/A|
|Norco||$2.50 ($2.50/L)||$4.10 ($2.05/L)||$6.10 ($2.03/L)||200ml bottles not sold in major supermarkets|
|a2 milk||$3.60 ($3.60/L)||$6.00 ($3.00/L)||$9.00 ($3.00/L)||$2.80 ($2.80/L)|
|Pauls||$2.65 ($2.65/L)||$3.95 – $4.00
($1.97 – $2.00/L)
|$5.75 – $6.00
($1.92 – $2.00/L)
|Harris Farm||N/A||$2.90 ($1.45/L)||N/A||N/A|
*Prices accurate as of July 2022 and may be subject to change.
**Prices in brackets are unit prices, a standard unit of measurement of the price of milk per litre, regardless of quantity or packaging.
Where to buy the cheapest milk
Homebrand fresh milk is cheaper than branded milk, with prices (including unit pricing) on par across Coles, Woolies, and ALDI − ranging from $1.60 to $4.50 depending on the quantity.
- However, Harris Farm 2L fresh milk retails for just $2.90 – which is 20c cheaper than the major three supermarkets for that quantity.
- Meanwhile, Costco’s 3L fresh milk beats all others on price (for that quantity) − costing just $3.60 (or $1.20/L), which is 90c cheaper than homebrand fresh milk from Coles, Woolies or ALDI which costs $4.50 (1.50/L). The savings would only be beneficial if you have a Costco store local to you.
- For long life milk, ALDI and IGA’s Black & Gold brand come out on top with a 1L UHT carton costing just $1.35 or 25c cheaper than other supermarket homebrands.
The most expensive brands compared above include Maleny and a2 milk which can cost $3-$9 depending on the quantity and retailer, which is nearly double the price of homebrand milk.
How much do dairy farmers get paid per litre of milk?
Farmgate prices paid to dairy farmers can vary between 55c and 75c per litre, according to industry statistics; although this will vary per state and supplier, different production systems, input costs (i.e feed, labour, etc.) climatic and market conditions, and on contract terms negotiated between individual retailers and producers. The farmgate milk price (FMP) is the amount processors pay farmers for their milk. With Coles and Woolworths increasing the price of homebrand milk by up to 60c and ALDI offering similar prices, it’s hoped dairy farmers are paid a fairer price for milk. Norco has also recently increased the average price per litre paid to dairy farmers to 84c.
The caveat here is that not all dairy farmers are paid by the litre. Some are paid based on the fat and protein content of the milk, with different prices set for each component and these prices even vary between processors, brands, and supermarkets. Unfortunately, due to the perishable nature of milk, dairy farmers have not had much leverage to set their own prices.
Since the deregulation of the dairy industry in 2000, milk prices within the industry have been set by supply and demand. Australia is one of the only countries that does not have legislative control over the price of milk. While this may be great for consumers on the outset, who can buy a litre of milk for about a dollar, farmers are short-changed, arguing that milk should never be that cheap considering the complexity of production. To put it all into perspective, a 1L bottle of Coke currently costs about $4.20 from most supermarkets, which is essentially just sugar and carbonated water. But, a 1L bottle of fresh full cream milk costs a meagre $1.60.
What’s the difference between long life and fresh milk?
The key difference between long life and fresh milk is the processing that it goes through to make it onto supermarket shelves. While fresh milk is processed by heating it to about 74˚C for 15 seconds, long life (UHT) milk is heated to over 135˚C for about 2 seconds, ‘flash cooled’ and then packaged aseptically. This usually gives it a longer shelf life of six to nine months. Once opened, it should be treated like regular milk and refrigerated/consumed within seven to 10 days.
Long life milk is usually, but not always, cheaper than fresh milk. This is because:
- UHT milk doesn’t require cold storage and therefore can be transported more easily
- Long life milk can be easily imported from regions or farmers with an oversupply.
Canstar Blue consumer expert, Megan Birot said: “Although long life milk tends to be cheaper than fresh milk across the board, the ongoing supermarket ‘milk wars’ and rising living costs mean the price difference is not as great as it used to be. In fact, the recent price hike from Coles and Woolworths negated any difference in price between homebrand fresh and long life milk.”
“Our latest consumer survey found the majority of Aussies still prefer fresh milk (61%), while 28% buy long life milk perhaps because it’s considered more cost-efficient as it can be stored for longer.”