Milk Sales Declined by $1.1 Billion Last Year

Milk substitutes are on the rise
milk
FangXiaNuo / istockphoto

Have milk alternatives like oat, soy and almond become so incredibly popular that dairy producers are having trouble moving the real stuff? According to statistics released on March 20 by Dairy Farmers of America (DFA), net sales for the marketing cooperative — which represents about 30 percent of overall milk production in the U.S. — dropped by $1.1 billion in 2018. The year’s total sales came to $13.6 billion, whereas the previous year saw $14.7 billion in sales.

Myths About Milk You Probably Thought Were True

The DFA’s announcement suggests that lower milk prices, not alternative milks, are the actual culprit — the decline in overall milk sales is roughly proportional to the decline in price per hundredweight over the same period. “There really isn’t a big story here beyond the depressed milk prices,” DFA vice president for corporate communications Kristen Coady reassured The Daily Meal via email. “In fact, if you dig deeper, you’ll see that DFA marketed fairly similar amounts of raw milk in 2017 versus 2018 (64.4 billion pounds in 2017 versus 64.5 billion pounds in 2018).”

But at least some industry professionals seem to think plant-based products are a threat. According to VegNews, dairy lobbyists are working to slim the competition by banning words like “milk” and “cheese” on plant-based products even if they’re labeled “dairy-free.” Similar efforts resulted in new laws in France, where producers can now be fined for using misleading meat and dairy descriptors on products made without animal products.

But people are drinking less and less milk as the years go by. Data from the USDA shows that Americans consume 149 pounds of dairy per capita today as opposed to 197 pounds per capitain in 2000 — a 24 percent decrease.

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On top of that, the $17.3 billion global market for non-dairy milk, ice cream, yogurt, creamers, etc. is projected to grow more than double to $29.6 billion by 2023 — though Asia is expected to remain the largest market for these products, and sales of dairy will likely continue to dwarf those of alternatives within the U.S. — according to research firm MarketsandMarkets. The growth in alternatives is attributed to consumers’ growing preference for a vegan diet, an increasing number of people who are either lactose intolerant or allergic to dairy milk, and the purported health benefits of plant-based alternatives. But there are both drawbacks and benefits to a dairy-free diet — this is what happens to your body when you quit dairy.