It’s easy to get down when looking at the decline in fluid milk consumption, but it’s not all bad news.
“Contrary to popular belief, dairy consumption is in pretty good shape,” said Phil Plourd, president of Blimling and Associates. During his presentation at the Vita Plus Midwest Dairy Conference, he reminded the audience that per capita intake of dairy products continues to rise. “We are eating more dairy every day,” he said.
Plourd said that cheese has been carrying the flag with its climbing sales. Butter consumption also continues to grow. He noted that yogurt hit its peak a few years ago and may be plateauing, but it is still a good story, and ice cream had a few good years in a row, too. In all, a mix of products are lifting the dairy category to new consumption levels.
It also helps that grocery stores seem to love dairy promotions. “Dairy brings people into the stores,” Plourd said. He shared that promotional activity for both cheese and butter has been expanding the past few years.
When it comes to milk as a beverage, the outcome has been different the past few decades. “That story is not getting better, and I don’t think it will,” Plourd said. “How we are consuming dairy is different, and it will likely to be different moving forward.”
While disappointing, Plourd said, “No one has done anything wrong. Things change.” He pointed out that the beverage aisle is filled with so many choices now, creating stiff competition for milk.
To make matters worse, “Milk’s best friend got into trouble,” Plourd said. He was referring to cereal, which has a sales trend line that mirrors fluid milk.
So, what do we do to weather the fall of beverage milk? “Let’s sell more cheese, butter, and yogurt,” he said. “I am not saying we give up on fluid milk, but it is a competitive landscape, and things have changed.”