Woolworths Drops Aussie-Owned Norco Milk, Faces Backlash

Woolworths, Australia’s largest supermarket chain, is facing criticism after announcing the removal of Norco branded milk from the shelves of nearly 100 of its Metro stores.

Norco, a farmers’ cooperative established in 1895 and based in Lismore, Northern New South Wales, produces a range of dairy products, including milk, flavoured milk, cheese, and butter. The cooperative recently endured setbacks from floods in 2022, which damaged its ice cream plant, with production only just resuming on a limited scale.

Woolworths’ decision affects 90 Metro branded stores, which are generally smaller and offer a more restricted range compared to full-sized Woolworths outlets, comprising about one-tenth of the company’s store network.

A Woolworths spokesperson confirmed that while Norco products will no longer be available in Metro stores, they remain stocked in Woolworths supermarkets nationwide. The move, according to Woolworths, aligns with their strategy of tailoring product offerings in Metro stores to meet local demand.

Norco has not officially responded to the decision, but discontent has been expressed on Woolworths’ social media platforms. Customers have voiced their support for Norco and their disappointment with Woolworths’ choice.

Of Australia’s top four milk producers, three are foreign-owned, sparking concerns about the impact on local businesses. However, Norco stands out as a 100% Australian-owned company, providing a source of pride for many consumers.

Despite challenges, including flooding that affected operations and infrastructure, Norco managed to post a $9.1 million profit in October. This success enabled the cooperative to pay its farmers a record price for their milk, underscoring the importance of supporting Australian-owned businesses.

The move by Woolworths comes amidst a series of controversies for the supermarket chain, including criticism for its handling of Australia Day merchandise and ongoing inquiries into supermarket practices. Additionally, the resignation of CEO Brand Banducci following a contentious interview has added to the company’s challenges.

As consumers express their concerns, the fate of Norco’s presence in Woolworths’ stores highlights broader issues around supporting local producers and the balance between corporate decisions and customer preferences.

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