Dairy products are tasty, affordable, and support our health in a variety of ways. While the dairy community knows these things, it is encouraging to see them reflected in a recent consumer survey that evaluated people’s attitudes and actions toward milk and dairy products.

The consumer research organization International Food Information Council asked more than 3,000 Americans of all ages and varying backgrounds how they interact with dairy products. The results indicate that dairy remains a hallmark in our country’s households and that there is more we can do to reach people who think dairy is not for them.

Which products and why?

Taste was reported as the number one reason people choose dairy; 72% said it encouraged them to buy cheese, 61% said it motivated yogurt purchases, and 50% said it contributed to milk consumption.

Other high-ranking factors included affordability, which mattered to households regardless of race or eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Bone and dental health, digestive health, and protein content also ranked high among reasons why consumers choose to purchase dairy products. For some groups, dairy consumption is a habit, and they identified that as a reason for continued purchase.

The most consumed dairy product among the survey respondents was cheese, with 90% of people saying they consumed it at least once a week. That was followed by 85% of people saying they used butter weekly, 75% consuming milk weekly, and 60% enjoying yogurt at least once a week.

One factor that affected multiple aspects of dairy consumption was the presence of children under 18 in a household. These parents more often reported consuming milk, butter, yogurt, and lactose-free milk at least once a week than people who did not have children in the home. Nearly half of the respondents with children said their dairy consumption rose after having children. Nine in 10 parents also reported that their children eat dairy at least once a week; cheese was the most commonly consumed item reported among children, too.

People with children, as well as households eligible for the SNAP, were more likely to consume milk and to have increased their consumption of milk and fluid milk in the last decade. That’s in contrast to the 28% of all respondents that said they had reduced their milk consumption in the last 10 years.

Still, most dairy products saw a reported increase in consumption. The biggest jumps were for yogurt, where 37% of people said they were eating more than a decade ago, and cheese, where 36% of people said they were.

When people use fluid milk, it was most often used as an addition to food, such as putting milk on cereal. The second most common use was in cooking or baking, followed by adding it to beverages and then as a beverage on its own. Digging into fat content, the survey found that people preferred whole milk most often for cooking and 2% milk most often for drinking on its own or as an addition to another food or drink.

Despite personal lactose intolerance being reported by 16% of respondents and 20% saying someone in their household was lactose intolerant, nearly two-thirds reported never having consumed lactose-free milk. Even slightly higher shares had never consumed lactose-free flavored milk or other dairy products in a lactose-free form, making them the least-consumed dairy products for all race groups. More people who reported as Latino, Black, or Asian had consumed lactose-free products, which is good news since lactose intolerance more often affects people of color.

However, more than half of the populations in those groups had not tried lactose-free products, indicating there is plenty of opportunity to promote these real dairy products to populations where they can make the difference between people consuming dairy or turning to alternatives.

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(c) Hoard's Dairyman Intel 2024
June 6, 2024
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