1978 Launch of Big M

Big M flavoured milk was launched in Victoria with overtly sexy imagery of milk running down the cleavage of girls in skimpy bikinis. It competed directly with Coca Cola as a cool teenage drink. The four initial flavours were Chocolate, Banana, Iced Coffee and Strawberry, followed later in the year by Blueberry. The equivalent drink in NSW was Moove, launched the same year.

Big M girl from the 1979 calendar

Big M was introduced in January 1978.  It marked the beginning of branded milk products in Victoria after the Victorian Dairy Industry Authority (VDIA)had replaced the Victorian Milk Board. The force behind the innovations was Chairman Des Cooper, along with his marketing manager Peter Granger.

The commercial was created by the George Patterson advertising agency in Melbourne – then the largest agency in town.  By March, it was reported that Big M had claimed 13 per cent of the non-alcoholic beverage market and had reached $1.5 million in gross sales. In 1978 the VDIA also announced sponsorship of the VFL Little League and the Big M Melbourne Marathon.

The soft drink companies reacted to the challenge, threatening to pull their fridges out of milk bars if Big M was displayed next to their products. Retailers had long sold products including cream and fruit juices from the fridges they rented from companies such as Cadbury Schweppes, but it seems the popularity of Big M had prompted a re-think. The Dairy Industry Authority promised to replace any confiscated fridges.

The campaign to promote the new product significantly increased overall milk sales, benefiting dairy farmers who had been going through difficult times.

The trademark was sold in 2000 and the brand was marketed by Lion Pty Limited which was, in turn, owned by Kirin Holdings in Japan. Lion controlled the Pura, Dairy Farmers, Dare, Farmers Union, Classic, Big M and Masters brands of flavoured milk in Australia. In January 2021, the Lion Dairy and Drinks business was sold to Bega Cheese, putting the brands back in Australian hands.

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