Arla Foods has set a target to double its online sales in Europe by 2025 on the back of a surge in demand the Denmark-headquartered dairy giant has seen during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Lurpak butter brand owner aims to increase sales to DKK600m (US$98m) from DKK300m over the period, with plans to invest in its online capabilities and increase the number of dedicated workers in sales and marketing in the UK, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands and Finland.

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Arla said in a statement today (12 January) that the cooperative’s online sales have doubled “in many key markets” during the Covid-19 crisis.

The co-op was ahead of the pack somewhat in launching a direct-to-consumer platform in the UK before other food manufacturers embraced the channel as an alternative means to get products to consumers during the crisis, and also for data insights. It rolled out the D2C service in 2018 for infant formula and baby foods such as porridge.

Peter Giørtz Carlsen, Arla's executive vice president and CCO for Europe, said: "We have a clear goal of becoming a leader in online dairy sales in Europe and continue to be our customers' preferred partner. The global Covid-19 crisis has significantly changed our buying behaviour in the direction of online channels, and this shift makes it possible to accelerate our e-commerce ambitions and innovation pipeline."

The expanded online team will focus on data analysis, online campaigns and visual content to promote the Arla brands.

Arla said online sales have seen a resurgence amid new lockdowns in Europe linked to a second coronavirus wave and are "evolving into a lasting change in consumer behaviour". It aims to achieve 10% of total group sales through e-commerce under a new target across "core" European markets.

In the UK, Arla's largest online market in Europe, 17% of retail sales are generated through the channel, while in Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands the figure is about 4-5%. Online sales in those latter three countries reached between 5-7% in 2020, it said.

"With our new ambitious strategy and increased investment, we increase our online presence and will be able to deliver well-known dairy products to European consumers via many different platforms," Carlsen said.