He’s too young to wax nostalgic over a delivery from the milkman back in his childhood.
But Tyler Sundin believes he’s definitely old enough to see a good business opportunity when it comes along.
That’s why the 24-year-old Litchfield High School graduate made the decision earlier this year to step into the role of milkman for Dairy2U, a company based in St. Cloud that is building its reputation on fresh local products and home-delivered convenience. And he’s working on bringing the concept to Litchfield residents now.
“I was looking through ads online, and I found Dairy2U, and I just thought, ‘This is cool!’” Sundin said. “I just thought it was an interesting opportunity, bringing products from local farms right to people’s front door.”
The company was founded in 2019 when Brad Hagfors bought out the St. Cloud area’s last traditional milkman. Hagfors said he saw the growing online shopping trend and envisioned a business that could deliver fresh-from-the-farm products from a local dairy directly to the customer’s door. A blending of old traditions with and technology in a cold glass of milk, if you will.
“People are buying online, shopping online and having things delivered to their home,” Hagfors said. “I talked to a lot of people, and people are really excited about this. And I think it’s the future.”
Dairy2U started in the St. Cloud area and quickly expanded its dairy delivery service to communities within a 20-mile radius of St. Cloud, then down the I-94 corridor to the northwest suburbs of the Twin Cities.
While the delivery business started as with milk from Stony Dairy in Melrose, the options have grown to include other staples, such as eggs, butter and bread, and now even cheeses, beef and pork, coffee and ice cream.
All of the food offerings come from regional companies, a company spokesman said. In addition to Stony Creek Dairy, Dairy2U has partnered with Backwards Bread Company in St. Cloud, Redhead Creamery in Brooten and Jupiter Moon Ice Cream in St. Joseph among others.
And with local products, Hagfors said, the focus has been on healthy and fresh. The milk from Stony Creek is hormone-free, low-temperature pasteurized from grass-fed cows. Eggs come from cage-free chickens. Cheese from Redhead Creamery is made with milk from a farm next door that pipes its milk underground to the milk house for processing, guaranteeing freshness.
“It’s been made clear to us that busy, health-conscious people and families want essential items free of preservatives delivered to them, when they want it,” Hagfors said. “The fact that our customers know they’re helping support the farmers and small business owners who produce these tantalizing products is just an added bonus.”
Sundin was working in an automotive parts distribution center in St. Cloud when he ran across the help wanted ad from Dairy2U. The more he looked into the company, the more he liked what he saw.
Doorstep delivery of products from local companies seemed like a business model that would work, Sundin said, especially in the COVID-19 pandemic era. But he believes it can go on, and even grow, after the pandemic is over, because people like the convenience.
Sundin was hired to run a route two days a week on Cooper Avenue in St. Cloud. The Tuesday-Thursday route is far from full-time, so at this point he’s still working his job at the parts center, as well. But he’s hoping to see his Dairy2U responsibilities grow.
In fact, they recently did, when Dairy2U added a Litchfield route and also announced plans to add routes in Darwin and Dassel. Long-term, the company also hopes to expand its delivery service to Hutchinson, according to Tim Osmundson a Dairy2U spokesman.
“I’m looking to turn it into a long-term career,” Sundin said. “I don’t think in the beginning they had Litchfield in mind, but when I mentioned I was from Litchfield, that became a possibility, I guess.”
He’s aware that it takes some time to build a customer base that will support a full-time driver, but Sundin says he thinks it is just a matter of people becoming familiar with the Dairy2U name. He trying to do his part by promoting the service on social media channels.
Though he admits he’s biased, he says he has a good product to sell.
“I love the milk,” he said. “There is definitely a difference. The thing is that the milk at Stony Creek is bottled right there at the farm. It doesn’t go and sit at a grocery store. There’s hardly any travel time, and we can have it at your door. They’re getting super duper fresh milk.”
Dairy2U’s marketing plan relies heavily on milkman nostalgia, with advertisements having a retro 1950s look of a smiling milkman in cap and white smock delivering dairy products.
But the approach is more modern, with customers placing orders and making payment online at dairy2u.com. Deliveries are made weekly. Sundin currently does his Litchfield route, which started with three households, on Saturdays.
Most customers set a cooler outside their door into which the products are placed, with no face-to-face interaction needed. But Sundin has found that, for many, the milkman experience is about interaction.
“It’s a very, very social job,” Sundin said. “You really can’t do this without having some social interaction, you know. They’re happy to get their milk and other things. And people just like to say ‘hi’ and talk a little when it arrives. It’s part of helping to build the brand.”