Coke is coming out with premium milk that has more protein and less sugar than regular. And it’s betting people will pay twice as much for it. The national roll-out of Fairlife over the next several weeks marks Coca-Cola’s entry into the milk market in the US and is one way the world’s biggest beverage maker is diversifying its offerings as Americans continue to turn away from soft drinks. It also comes as people increasingly seek out some type of functional boost from their foods and drinks, whether it’s more fibre, antioxidants or protein. That has left the door open for Coke to step into the milk category, where the differences between options remain relatively minimal and consumption has been declining for decades. “It’s basically the ‘premiumisation’ of milk,” Sandy Douglas, president of Coca-Cola North America, said at an analyst conference in November. If developed properly, Douglas said it is the type of product that “rains money”. Fairlife, which Coca-Cola formed in partnership with dairy cooperative Select Milk Producers in 2012, says its milk goes through a filtration process that’s akin the way skimmed milk is made. Filters are used to separate the various components in milk. Then, more of the favorable components are added, while the less desirable ones are kept out. The result is a drink that Fairlife says is lactose free and has 50 per cent more protein, 30 per cent more calcium and 50 per cent less sugar than regular milk. The same process is used to make Fairlife’s Core Power, a drink marketed to athletes that has even more protein and calcium than normal Fairlife milk. Sue McCloskey, who developed the system used to make Fairlife with her husband Mike McCloskey, said Fairlife will be marketed more broadly to women who are the “gatekeepers” for their families’ nutritional needs. Even while touting its nutritional advantages, however, Fairlife will need to be careful about communicating how its drink is made. Jonas Feliciano, senior beverage analyst for market researcher Euromonitor, noted that people want drinks that “do something for me,” but that Fairlife’s juiced-up nutritional stats may make people hesitant about how natural it really is. “They have to explain that this is not an abomination of nature,” Feliciano said. Already, Fairlife has been subject to teasing. After the drink appeared in Coke’s analyst presentation, comedian Stephen Colbert referred to it as “extra expensive science milk” and made fun of the elaborate way it’s made. That may explain why Coca-Cola is distancing itself from the product; a representative for the Atlanta-based company referred questions to Fairlife’s outside representative. In a phone interview, Fairlife CEO and former Coke executive Steve Jones said he thinks his company can help reverse the ongoing decline in milk consumption. Major US retailers including Wal-Mart, Target, Kroger and Safeway have agreed to carry it and Coca-Cola’s Minute Maid team plans to make it available wherever milk is sold. The drink, which comes in a plastic bottle reminiscent of milk cartons, is already appearing on some US shelves and rolls out nationally over the next few weeks. At a supermarket in Indianapolis, a 1.5 litre bottle of Fairlife was being sold for US$4.59. By comparison, the national average cost for a half-gallon of milk, which is 1.9 litres, is US$2.18, according to the USDA. For organic milk, the average is US$3.99.