In promising news for dairy producers, the results of a new survey of 2,200 Americans found that an overwhelming 86 percent of adults prefer dairy milk. This is compared to “other” milks, which includes plant-based beverages as well as lactose-free milk or no milk at all. The survey was completed last month by national survey firm Morning Consult and provides valuable insights into what consumers think about and want from their milk.

Preferred for nutrition
Low-fat and fat-free dairy products are often promoted as a way to meet calcium needs without overloading on dietary fat. But in this survey, 69 percent of respondents said they would rather have fuller fat milk for their family: 2 percent milk was the top choice of 39 percent of adults, and whole milk garnered 30 percent of the votes.

Only 4 percent of those surveyed said they did not drink milk of any kind, while 10 percent elected for “other” milks.

Of course, all dairy milks provide adequate levels of nine essential nutrients. The adoption of 2 percent and whole milk, though, may be because of a perceived nutritional difference. When asked what type of milk they thought was most nutritious, consumers generally seemed to respond in line with which milk they preferred. Thirty-six percent of adults believed 2 percent milk is most nutritious, and 31 percent believed whole milk to be most nutritious.

Preferences were consistent across key demographic groups, except for one.

Survey participants who self-identified as receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits were the only group to like whole milk best (43 percent of responses). Similarly, 46 percent of SNAP adults said they thought whole milk was the most nutritious choice.

Important in schools
There has been much debate in recent years over milk options in public schools. Obama-era policies forced schools to offer only skim or 1 percent milk, and flavored milks suffered in sales as fewer students were choosing milk altogether. USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue has been vocal about reversing these changes since being appointed.

He may have more support for this idea than might be expected. Fifty-three percent of adults in this survey reported they believed that it is important that the school their child attends offer 2 percent and whole milks.

Exactly half of adults surveyed also believed that it is at least “somewhat important” for their child’s school to serve flavored, 1 percent milk. Parents appear to want more to their child’s milk choices than skim, white milk.

Meeting demand
This study tells us that Americans want to feed their families fuller fat, dairy milk, which is fulfilling to hear for dairy farmers. Even in schools, one of the largest markets for milk across the country, there may be a bigger desire for more palatable milks.

The health benefits of dairy combined with reported consumer preferences must be enough for policymakers and regulators to work on getting more milk and cheese on U.S. tables.

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(c) Hoard's Dairyman Intel 2019
September 23, 2019
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