Global milk giant Parmalat has engaged Crosby Textor - the controversial spin doctors behind Tony Abbott's successful 2013 election campaign - to try to crush a small New Zealand rival that has made great inroads into the Australian market with its a2 milk.
According to a whistleblower, Parmalat, the Italian-based multinational that owns Pauls milk, hired Crosby Textor late last year to help devise a media campaign to undermine a2 Milk, which has taken significant market share from Parmalat's once popular Pauls and PhysiCal milk brands in Australia.
Meetings were allegedly held in Crosby Textor's Sydney office, where planning for a media campaign to discredit the science behind a2 took place.
"The end game was to try and win back some market share for Pauls Milk," said the whistleblower.
Milk from dairy cows contains two different types of beta-casein protein - a1 or a2, or a combination of both.
The a2 Milk company claims many people who are sensitive to drinking milk can consume its product as it is free of a1 beta-casein.
Since its launch in Australia in 2007, a2 Milk is now the country's leading premium supermarket milk brand.
Emails seen by Fairfax Media reveal that Crosby Textor was engaged to "work on a Parmalat campaign" against a2 late last year.
"The intention before Christmas was to use A Current Affair or something similar to get the story out,'' read a January 7 email.
When TV shows baulked at running the story, the spin doctors turned to the print media. In March an article appeared in The Sunday Telegraph in which Parmalat accused a2 of using "misleading advertising and scare tactics to gain more market share''.
Parmalat chief executive officer Craig Garvin was quoted in that story stating: "When you start trying to distinguish between the two by creating fear campaigns about everyday milk, that is a real problem."
Last month another story attacking a2 appeared in The Australian. In that article, A2 was described as "snake oil".
Just three weeks after that story, Parmalat relaunched its Pauls Zymil brand of lactose-free milk in Australia, which is aimed at a2 Milk's market.
Mr Garvin confirmed that his company had hired Crosby Textor.
Crosby Textor co-founder Mark Textor did not respond to calls.