Four generations and plenty of bags and bottles later, Cochrane's Dairy is still giving customers their calcium.
For more than half a century Cochrane's Dairy in Russell has been making sure that residents from Orleans to Stittsville "got milk".
Current president Floyd Cochrane recalls it all began in the early 1930s. Every Friday evening his father and grandfather would load up the wagon and head into Ottawa to sell meats, eggs and cream at the market Saturday morning. Customers soon began enquiring about home delivery and by 1936, a six-year-old Floyd was helping out dad and grandpa with the delivery route.
"Then Dad wanted to get into selling milk," recalls Floyd. So milk was added to the Cochranes' selection of products.
In 1938, the Ontario Health Act stipulated that all dairy products for human consumption must be pasteurized and so the family began taking their milk and cream to the Plante Dairy, located in what is now the South Keys area of Ottawa. In 1946, they built a small dairy on Gregoire Street in Russell, enabling them to process and package the milk on their own.
In 1962, Cochrane's Dairy became a limited company.
"We started with a little wee building here," explains Floyd. "It just kept getting bigger and bigger as the years went on."
Today, Cochrane's Dairy offers not just milk, but an array of products including water, bread, ice cream, bagels, cheese, popsicles and fruit drinks. Many of the products are bought from other companies, such as Natrel and Parmalat. Only the milk and juices are processed and packaged at the dairy. The milk is purchased from local dairy farmers and comes to Cochrane's to be pasteurized, given the right butterfat content and homogenized.
Cochrane's Dairy products are in stores, restaurants, day care centers and nursing homes throughout Ottawa and the surrounding communities. The company also delivers to at least 2,500 homes. It has about dozen employees, with almost half carrying the Cochrane name. Most of the family, however, has helped out with the family business at one time or another.
Floyd says the key to the company's success is simple: "You've got to have good quality, good prices and good service."
He says the Cochranes take pride in their business and make sure their customers are well looked after. He points out they aren't afraid to make accommodations and exceptions for their customers.
One product that helps set Cochrane's apart is its bottles. It's one of the few dairies that offer milk in glass bottles, appealing to their customers' sense of nostalgia. "A lot of people like milk in glass, especially the chocolate because it looks so nice," explains Floyd.
Another aspect sets Cochrane's apart is their introduction of organic milk. The dairy purchases Organic Meadow milk from Brum's Dairy in Pembroke and started selling it three weeks ago.
"I'd say it's going to be a big seller and customers are really, really happy that we're going to be distributing it," says Floyd.
To be organic the milk must come from a certified organic dairy farm. Organic farmers must have used only 100 per cent organic feed and no fertilizers, pesticides herbicides or fungicides on the land for three years. The cows must also get plenty of clean water, fresh air, bedding and exercise and be free of hormones or antibiotics. At no time can the organic milk come into contact with non-organic milk.
Although popular in Europe, organic milk is still a relatively new phenomenon in Canada, but demand is growing. According to Agriculture and Agri-foods Canada, 9.5 million litres of organic milk was produced in Ontario 2001, compared to the 4.5 million the year before. However it's nothing compared to the 24,119,839 hectolitres of regular milk that was produced in 2001.
Floyd says the company decided to sell the milk because of the growing desire for organic products. He says the company plans to soon offer a whole line of organic foods, such as cheese and yogurt.
Two per cent milk is still Cochrane's Dairy's biggest seller, though Floyd admits that water sales have gone up. However he isn't worried that the days of milk and cookies are being replaced by protein shakes and Gatorade.
"I don't know if everyone is drinking more or less or the same, but we're getting more and more business," he says. "My guess would be that people will always drink milk; I know I always will."