Story of the White Revolution


From being a milk deficient country till the ‘1960s, India has now become the world’s largest milk producer through ‘White Revolution’. In 1970, the country aimed to enhance its milk production, resulting in the launch of Operation Flood. India surpassed the US and became the largest milk producer in the world in 1998. Here’s a tale to tell.

Storytelling is an art that humans acquired and evolved with, over centuries. It has been passed down the generations; over time it evolved to add substance through illustrations & photos. As the years went by, the black and white stories got splashed with colour and gradually advanced to audios, videos and cartoons. Eventually with the introduction of television into our homes the presentation of stories changed for the better. In India, all of us adapted well to the new age of technology and its offerings.

The dynamics of storytelling changed when it was introduced through ads, movies, tv-series etc and the consumer space just exploded. The advent of the internet scaled that into a different realm but nothing could overshadow the beauty and charm of the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. This was an era of limited choices and you had only one radio channel “All India Radio” and one television channel “Doordarshan”.

The impact that these two mediums created, remains incomparable even today as it was the monopoly of content and space by these two. Some of the creatives made around that period left an indelible mark on our minds. Many Indian ads were built around causes and some of them remain afresh in minds of generations X & Y.

The ‘White Revolution’ catapulted India from a milk deficient nation to the world’s largest milk producer.

It was during these times that the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) launched the world’s most ambitious and aggressive dairy development initiative. National Dairy Development Board embarked on a Milk Revolution and created history. Code-named “Operation Flood”, this programme was successful in transitioning India to produce & drink milk more than ever. This “White Revolution” catapulted India from a milk deficient nation to the world’s largest milk producer.

Some of the best creative ads during this period was made by Amul– this commercial “Dhoodh Dhoodh Dhoodh” was on the lips of every Indian those days, making it one of the most successful ad campaigns. An offshoot of this was an ad by Cadburys– this commercial “Kya Swad Hai Zindagi Mein” brought Chocolate, our national passion “Cricket” and Milk together, and hit a bullseye on the sentiments of the massive Indian Population.

The White Revolution made the desired impact, making milk an essential commodity, coming into every home each morning. Commoditization attracted prospects, many brands entered the fray with variants of milk and the market has been evolving ever since. Today with consumer trends changing rapidly and milk companies trying to outdo each other – consumers are spoilt for choices.

Let’s understand more about this amazing drink and unravel some mysteries around it.

Milk is a normal mammary secretion extracted from a healthy animal reared for the purpose. Whereas packaged milk is a sterilized product made from buffalo milk or cow’s milk or Goat milk or sheep milk or camel milk or a combination of the first two.

India had a production capacity of 14.68 crore litres milk per day with a consumption of 480 grams per capita per day in 2018.

Packaged milk is categorised according to its fat and solids-not-fat (SNF) contents through heat treatment processes like pasteurization, ultra-pasteurization, sterilisation, ultra-high temperature treatment or boiling. The most common being “Pasteurization” is a sterilization procedure where microbicidal heat treatment is done aimed at reducing the number of any pathogenic micro-organisms in milk and liquid milk products that poses a health hazard.

India’s milk production and availability in statistics

  • Per capita milk availability in 1991 in India: 178 gm/day
  • Per capita milk availability in 2018 in India: 394 gm/day (302 gm/day globally)
  • Milk production in 1991 in India: 55.6 million tonnes
  • Milk production in 2018 in India: 187.7 million tonnes
  • Milk production growth during 1991-2018 in India: 4% CAGR

Variations are derived by removing some ingredients or adding them, which is subsequently known as recombined milk or milk product. Milk product is the result of a combination of milk fat and milk-solids-non-fat in their preserved forms with or without the addition of potable water. What we get in our homes today is milk with characteristics and appropriate milk product composition as per the prescribed standard.

Let’s look at these packaged milk variants as categorised by the Food and Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).

  • Standard milk is a milk variant with minimum milk fat of 4.5% and a minimum SNF of 8.5%.
  • Skimmed milk is a milk variant with minimum milk fat of 0.5% and a minimum SNF of 8.7%.
  • Toned milk is a milk variant with minimum milk fat of 3% and a minimum SNF of 8.5%.
  • Double Toned milk is a milk variant with minimum milk fat of 1.5% and a minimum SNF of 9%.
  • Full Cream Milk is a milk variant with minimum milk fat of 6% and a minimum SNF of 9%.

The rapid advancement of research and technology has created new milk variants due to intolerance to lactose and personal choices.

  • Lactose-free milk or low lactose milk is milk where lactose content has been reduced significantly through hydrolysis by enzymatic or any other appropriate process and brought down to less than 1% in low lactose milk and less than 0.1% in lactose-free milk.
  • Vegan milk as the word implies, is the milk made from a plant base- like soya, almond, cashew, peanut, coconut, oats and more – the list is evolving.

Milk has become a household favourite, thanks to its benefits and its versatility in changing its guise to other forms. Milk created amazing avenues for milk-based products and the dairy industry has been growing at an unbelievable rate. This brought in many FMCG players to use milk in their products or make products that could be used with milk. The world around milk is galloping at an unprecedented pace.

There is also a flip side – as per the study done by the govt a few years back, more than 68% of milk and milk-based product sold in the market today defy the FSSAI standards – an unfortunate but sad truth. The most common adulterants are detergent, caustic soda, glucose, white paint and refined oil. Knowing your milk and where you buy it from is very important, in ensuring that you get the right milk. This is very important to avoid any health scare or medical complications.

white revolution

As per data available from 2018, India had a production capacity of 14.68 crore litres per day with a consumption of 480 grams per capita per day. The consumption pattern and studies clearly indicate that milk is India’s chosen non-alcoholic beverage across the cross-section of society. It is evident that milk is a huge opportunity out there which comes with a harsh indicator that if stricter control measures are not in place, adulteration will get out of hand. It will take the overall health index downwards unless the govt plays an active role to control this menace.

Milk is a crucial ingredient in our national drink and our national time pass – “Tea”. The fact that National Milk Day is celebrated on 26th November goes on to show the importance of milk in our country. Globally 1st June is celebrated as World Milk Day, an initiative by the United Nations, which shows how the world and world bodies are looking at “Mission Milk”. 

This white nectar from the udders of animals is instrumental in keeping the human population healthy. This magical drink has become an integral part of the everyday home menu; knowing your milk is the key here!

Have a healthy drink every day…… Have a glass of milk…..Say cheers to milk!!!!!

Also Read: To (m)eat or not to (m)eat! A non-vegetarian’s dilemma

(Shailesh Nair is an entrepreneur, tourism consultant, foodie, content writer and a YouTuber with tourism channels – Tour with Shailesh and Travel Influencer.)

(Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.)


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