It’s a long-lost sound many of us remember from our childhood – but it’s not gone away. If you’re awake in the early hours in Lavender Hill, you may hear the familiar sound of an electric milk float, and the clink of bottles.
Because milk deliveries are still running – even in inner London! Milk & More employ 1,100 milkmen and women who deliver more than a hundred million pints of milk each year, and still in the familiar returnable glass bottles. For many years they were run as Dairy Crest, but are part of dairy firm Müller (who are maybe more famous for making dairy yoghurts such as Fruit Corners & MüllerRice), though three quarters of the actual deliveries are by smaller franchisee businesses working under the Milk & More national brand. Deliveries to Lavender Hill are on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and come from Gap Road, between Earlsfield and Wimbledon.
We’re not usually too keen on delivery services – as a website that makes a point of talking about local shops! But we’re happy to make an exception for milk deliveries, give they’ve been around for decades, that they barely compete with local shops, and that with electric deliveries & minimal packaging waste are an environmentally friendly option. The service has evolved a bit over the years, branching out to a much wider range of milks and juices now, including oat, goat, soya, almond and the like, as well as a complete set of organic options, and a small range of bread products.
And most of the milk is still delivered with fully electric milk floats. This approach goes right back to the 1940s, which – as new cars increasingly move to being electrically powered – means milk delivery was way ahead of its time… No-one is quite sure why milk floats were electric – possible reasons include their being able to run very quietly (an advantage for a service that was delivering to quiet residential streets in the early hours, when most windows were single glazed), and that electric vehicles were much cheaper to run than petrol or diesel vans given they were stopping and starting hundreds of times on each round. There has lately been a slight move towards diesel vehicles, especially on long rural milk rounds – but we suspect it won’t last.
Lockdowns and a move towards more occasional shopping trips to allow for social distancing has been good for milk delivery services – and apparently led to a surge in online customers, with Milk & More gaining twelve thousand new customers in the last year. The core range of milk costs about 80p a pint delivered, with organic milks more like 95p and the more exotic options such as Kefir and creams costing more. Bottled fresh juices are about £1.35 a pint. So if you happen to be up in the middle of the night, and hear what sounds like a milk float, it probably is one! And to find out more about the service (which includes details of our local milkman, Dave Cousins) see Milk&More’s website.