Watching David Attenborough’s Blue Planet gave marketing consultant Paul White an idea.
“Like so many people Blue Planet made me realise that we needed to do something about our use of plastics,” says Paul.
And so with three friends he bought a milk round near their home village of Laneshaw Bridge, near Skipton.
“We quite quickly realised that an old-fashioned milk round like we had as children just really wasn’t suitable for the 21st century and so we set about modernising it and making it digital.”
And so over the following six months Paul, with friends Simon Mellin, Becky Hilton and Tom Shaw The Modern Milkman was created.
“We wanted to be a sustainable grocery delivery services, but there was no way would could, or would want, to compete with the big supermarket delivery services,” explains Paul.
“What we really wanted was to work directly with producers to get their products to people who wouldn’t normally find it easy to buy them. We reduce the food miles, help the producers and help people buy more sustainable love produce.”
First launching in East Lancashire and Greater Manchester last month, The Modern Milkman has also set up in Leeds.
The Modern Milkman delivers plastic free groceries, including glass bottled milk, and uses technology to enable customers to order right up to 10pm the night before to have their groceries delivered by 7.30am the next morning.
“The response has been pretty staggering, we’ve been really taken aback by it.
“It’s great to see so many people wanting to actually tackle this problem.”
The doorstep grocery service has already seen hundreds sign up in Leeds.
“There has been a huge appetite for this, and we’re reaching out to a whole new audience. It’s great to be able to bring old and new together, with a traditional doorstep service but accessed in a really convenient way that the customer can manage themselves,” says Simon.
“There’s a huge desire to back local producers too and this is an easy way of doing that. The idea is that the people of Leeds, and Yorkshire as we spread, will be supporting local people.
“For us, it’s about that all-round sustainability: reducing plastic, supporting local businesses, and reducing food miles and food waste.”
The Modern Milkman gets its milk from Dales Dairies, based in Skipton, which sources all of its milk from 21 farms within 20 miles of the dairy.
“Finding the right producers with quality produce is vitally important to use and a lot of work goes into finding the right producer,” says Paul.
“We are also going to start asking people to suggest recommended producers.”
David Oversby, who owns Dales Dairies and whose family has farmed at Town Head Farm since 1938, said: “It’s great that The Modern Milkman is able to connect us and our farmers with a new generation of customers in Leeds.
“My grandfather, William, used to go out with what was called a back-can. It was a bit like a rucksack but with a churn on your back, and he’d deliver by horse and cart and now people are ordering through an app. Things have certainly moved on.
“It’s great to see that we’re seeing so many people who haven’t had doorstep deliveries before, wanting to buy their milk in glass and The Modern Milkman’s model means that they are directly supporting local farmers and cutting down food miles”.
The four friends have also worked with Yockenthwaite Farm near Skipton, which produces breakfast cereals, to develop a packaging made out of wood starch which can be composted at home.
“We bumped into the guys from The Modern Milkman at Yorkshire Show, and we were both really keen on what each other are doing,” says David Hird, a fifth generation farmer at Yockenthwaite.
“It’s great that The Modern Milkman are able to link farmers and producers like us, directly with customers, and provide that link to home delivery of groceries and it’s great that they’re really pushing to back local suppliers too.
“By operating with the model they do, they’re really cutting down the food miles between producer and consumer, which is great in terms of sustainability.
“In many ways, we’re two businesses with a very similar ethos and ethics.”
The team has a range of products to include milk, flavoured milk, fresh orange, cream, eggs, baked goods, pop, cereals and household items and plan to grow the range to include other household items that consume a lot of plastic where they’ll offer convenience shop items with returnable and reusable packaging.
They also plan to expand into supplying meat.
The Modern Milkman started out with the four friends getting up at 3am to do the deliveries themselves before heading off to their respective day jobs.
Now they have a fleet of 12 vans and have 20 rounds and have supplied 6,000 customers.
All four now work full-time in the business.
“We knew and really hoped that people would take to the service as we knew there was a need, but the speed over the last 12 months has surprised us,” says Paul.