Modern Milkman reinvents the convenience store the mobile eco-friendly way

The company has been bringing fresh produce – eggs, bread, fruit, veg and of course milk as well as cleaning products – in returnable and reusable packaging direct to doorsteps since 2018. Now a new £2.25 million investment from Praetura Ventures will see MM scale operations both in the UK and internationally.

“We’re the digital equivalent of a convenience store dedicated to reducing food waste, eliminating plastic and cutting carbon emissions,” declares founder and chief executive Simon Mellin.

A former racing car engineer with family roots in farming and small retail in England’s north west, he sold a chicken farm business to launch MM after seeing the Blue Planet TV series and the damage caused by plastic rubbish.

“Modern Milkman supports producers by shortening the supply chain and paying them a fair price,” he explains. “Deliveries and collections are three times a week, ordering is flexible with no commitment. 

“Drinks come in returnable glass bottles, any packaging which isn’t reusable is single use, plastic free, recyclable or compostable. 

“We’re helping reset the relationship between consumers and producers – the daily connection between them and butchers, bakers and greengrocers. We all need to value food more. Thirty per cent of the world’s food is wasted and 70 per cent comes from homes.”

Based close to Mellin’s home territory in Colne, Lancashire, MM’s own technology has led to the fast growth and a team of 650 that enable some 400,000 deliveries a week.

Manchester-based Praetura’s backing was preceded by funding from Insight Partners, ETF (The Environmental Technologies Fund), recipe box Hello Fresh’s Edward Boyes.

MM doubled its footprint in 2021 and is forecasting a £1m turnover for 2024 as it moves into profit.

A hub system underpins the operation, with producers delivering to MM’s 19 units, some on farms or industrial estate depots. Twenty more are planned for the UK in the next couple of years and the company also recently opened its first overseas in Lille. 

“The city is well placed geographically, the proposition is the same and the independent producer concept well understood there. But sales are more about water and bakery items rather than milk,” says Mellin who is heading for Belgium next and then Germany and The Netherlands before the US in 2024/25.

The first in the UK to deliver fresh orange juice in return and reuse packaging and oat drink in returnable glass bottles, “we’re heavily invested in packaging innovation and looking at paper solutions for bacon and sausages,” he adds.

“We’re currently delivering yogurt in glass which we collect to ensure it is properly recycled. This also helps overcome glass shortages and we aim to replicate the same for milk next year as we work on return and reuse containers.

“However we are up against an outdated bottling infrastructure in the UK which was designed for one pint bottles.”

Capturing all the data points so MM can map deliveries, predict demand and order flows to ensure no waste has been a huge technological undertaking. 

The company is now developing a weatherproof smart box for customers with Bluetooth connections to its vans to ensure every delivery is correct. 

“We absolutely realise how important it is for customers to have what they ordered on time. Milk for their cuppa and breakfast cereal really matter,” says Mellin.

And with 46.5 million plastic bottles saved so far, he urges everyone “make small changes and become part of big solutions, that way we can change our throwaway society”.

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