European dairy giant Müller has launched a programme to lower costs and improve margins from its fresh-milk business in the UK and Ireland.

The German company said the move will “require tough decisions” but did not say what those are likely to involve. 

It said the aim of the process is to “secure a vibrant and sustainable future for the business, benefiting consumers, customers, employees and farmers”.

Called Project Darwin, the programme includes “a comprehensive review” of every aspect of Müller Milk & Ingredients (MMI)’s operations, logistics, back office and staffing in order to “simplify” the business, reduce costs and improve customer focus and accountability.

Patrick Müller, CEO of Müller Milk & Ingredients said: “Fresh milk is loved by British families with 96% of UK households having milk in their fridges. But the market environment has changed significantly due to global dairy market volatility, a decline in consumption and changes in retailing and we need to adapt and return to sustainable levels of profitability so that fresh milk can continue to be part of the fabric of British life.

“We have the best-invested network in our industry and aim to be the leading fresh milk processor in the country for years to come. We’ve invested in unique and class-leading propositions in farm to fridge product quality and shelf life. We have fully recyclable packaging including securing 50% of Britain’s stocks of recycled HDPE for use in bottles, efficient dairies and innovative ways of working with farmers to help protect them from market volatility.

“Project Darwin is about adapting to the changing market environment, becoming a customer-centric, agile and simpler business.

“This transformation programme will inevitably require tough decisions and a great deal of change but when Project Darwin succeeds, consumers, customers, employees and farmers will benefit, and we can again look forward to a vibrant and progressive future. We have already started the process by securing important new long-term strategic partnerships with customers which will reinvigorate the sector.”

The 12-month programme is already underway.

Müller said it is too early in the project to be able to convey specific changes in each part of the business and organisation and in customer relationships and priorities.

The Germany-based group entered the UK fresh-milk market in 2012 when it acquired local supplier Robert Wiseman Dairies.

Three years later, Müller snapped up the liquid milk business of another UK manufacturer, Dairy Crest.