MILK: The Milk Marketing Board and the 'milk crisis'

'Milk: The Milk Marketing Board and the Milk Crisis'.  Photograph of the first Milk Marketing Board Meeting, 6th October 1933.
The history of the Milk Marketing Board starts in the 1930s but its legacy continues into contemporary debates around farming, food production and national commerce.

In October of 2014, twenty years after the closure of the MMB, UK dairy farmers and their supporters took to the streets to protest at the low price of milk to the consumer, compared to high production costs. Not only did these actions have an impact on supermarket executives but they raised the awareness of dairy production to the public, rehashing a debate that brought about the formation of the MMB in the first instance.

This online exhibition, complementing an exhibition on display at Dittons Library, tells the story of the MMB, bringing it up to the present day.

Milk Content Page Image 2
In 1932 a Government commission was set up investigate the dairy industry and it decided that there was an urgent need for an organisation to stabilise the market. That organisation was the Milk Marketing Board. Set up in October 1933, the Board originally worked out of Millbank, London. In the late 1930s work began on a new building, large and open plan that could double up as a hospital during national emergencies. Located in Thames Ditton, this new headquarters was the home of the MMB for over 50 years.
A Move to Thames Ditton
The Milk Marketing Board's new home in Thames Ditton from 1939
The Milk Marketing Board's new home in Thames Ditton from 1939

Speaking in 1986, the MMB's Public Relations Officer - Mr. Chapman - described the company's move from central London to |Thames Ditton in 1939.

With the declaration of war, the new building was occupied in a hurry; filing cabinets that had once filled the Board's Millbank premises were piled into milk lorries and carted south to Thames Ditton. Anyone due to work in the new building was required to wear a hard hat when entering: construction work was still taking place, the steps leading into the entrances were not completed and a plank was the only way in.

Elmbridge Museum's collection includes a number of photographs from these early years. Below you can see images taken between 1938 and 1940. |Visi Visit our Collections page to explore more milk related objects from our archive.


Later Developments: Milk man working at Weybridge, 1986
Milk man at work in Weybridge, 1986.
Increasingly throughout the post war years, consumer trends have changed the way milk is perceived and consumed. Supermarkets now sell more 'pintas' than the doorstep milky.
Milk Marketing Board advertisement on a milk van: 'Presented to Whiteley Homes Trust by Home Counties Dairies Ltd. Feb. 1978'
Milk Marketing Board advertisement on a milk van



The MMB, being responsible for 'marketing', had a responsibility to advertise producers' products to the public. Iconic advertising campaigns such as 'is your man getting enough?' and 'Accrington Stanley, Who Are They?' were commissioned by the Board to boost milk sales, and were very well received.


In 2014, twenty years after the MMB shut its doors, the media brought to public attention what they called a 'milk crisis'. Like the situation that spurred on the formation of the MMB back in the 1930s, the production of milk now - in the early twenty first century - greatly exceeds the demand for the product. With excessive production prices will fall. Many dairy farms have ceased producing due to financial losses year on year.

In 1995 there were 35,741 registered dairy farms in the UK. By the end of 2015 this number had dropped to 9,914.

This timeline gives the dates of significant occurrences between the formation of the MMB and the present day. The timeline was originally included in the accompanying exhibition guide to the 'Milk' display at Dittons Library.
Milk Marketing Board timeline, Elmbridge Museum