Flavored beverage milk sales are up 51.6% over the first seven months of this year when compared to the same time last year within California’s Federal Order No. 51. That’s the good news portion of the story.
The rest of the story is that those flavored milk sales are finally returning to 2019 levels following the dreadful impact of COVID-19. That’s because flavored milk sales are highly dependent on institutional purchases. The word “institutional” is industry code for a category that includes schools.
“Packaged sales of conventional flavored product show significant fluctuations over the last four years,” wrote Peter Fredericks, market administrator for the California Federal Milk Marketing Order. “The figure shows that flavored milk sales in California correlate strongly with in-person learning instruction,” continued Fredericks in the federal order’s August newsletter.
“In the year preceding the pandemic, flavored milk sales seemed to follow typical school consumption trends: sales were relatively stable at the beginning of 2019 through the spring; dipped in the summer months when schools were on break; strongly increased into the fall as children went back to school; and declined slightly going into the holiday season,” wrote Fredericks in describing the red line in the figure.
“Sales in 2020, however, did not follow this trend,” continued Fredericks. The 2020 sales shown in the orange dashed line correlate with the onset of remote learning in March 2020. That being the case, flavored milk sales fell substantially in the spring and did not experience the August sales rebound seen in other years. Overall, 2021’s sales stayed similarly suppressed until most schools returned to in-person learning in the fall.
“Flavored milk sales in 2022 show a vast improvement over the prior year but are still below the January through July sales of 2019 by 4.7%,” concluded Fredericks.