Preliminary totals have come in, and those totals don’t look favorable for fluid milk. Sales slumped 4.1% by sliding from 46.2 billion to 44.3 billion pounds when comparing 2020 to 2021, according to data assembled by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service. Not only did those sales continue a 12-year slide, the combined 44.3 million pounds of sales from the combined conventional and organic fluid milk categories was the lowest total since 1951 when USDA reported 42.8 billion pounds of fluid milk sold to commercial outlets.
Not even whole milk could withstand last year’s slide. Having posted gains in recent years, conventional whole milk sales slid 5%, falling from 16.8 billion to 16 billion pounds during the past year. Reduced fat sales (2% milk) fell even further at 7.9% by dropping from 15.7 billion to 14.4 billion pounds. Skim milk experienced an even more dramatic, double-digit sales downturn when compared to the aforementioned categories.
The lone bright spot was flavored milk, which grew 14.3% when combining the conventional and organic categories, according to the February 15, 2022, Estimated Fluid Milk Sales Report published by AMS. Much of that growth can be attributed to the flavored reduced-fat milk category that traditionally gets delivered to school milk programs. That rebound can be attributed children returning to school as COVID-19 restrictions eased.
Big picture dairy
While fluid milk sales are down as a whole, it’s important to point out that consumers are eating their dairy products these days. Dairy product consumption, as a whole, is at the highest level since 1960. USDA data illustrates per capita dairy consumption climbed to 655 pounds per person. Over the past 10 years, the growth rate was 52 pounds, with cheese and butter leading the positive trajectory.