Rising Dairy Consumption Providing Comfort in a Challenging Time

The data is in, and in dairy’s corner of the world, it brings some comfort at a challenging time. Throughout the market ups and downs of the pandemic era, consumers love of dairy products has been a constant, even rising in 2020 from 2019 and once again proving that, despite these challenging times, a glass of milk remains as relevant as ever.

Retail dairy purchases, which jumped at the pandemic’s beginning, have remained elevated throughout the year.

With more meals being prepared at home, dairy has provided comfort in uncomfortable times. Baking went better with butter. Coffee was complemented with real dairy cream or half-and-half. Milk remained essential to family nutrition.


Milk Consumption Grew During Pandemic

Milk consumption itself saw gains across categories. Buttermilk use rose with the baking revival, organic and conventional volumes of fluid milk rose, and lactose-free milk saw increases comparable to those of plant-based beverages – which, despite the hype from the fake-milk marketers, is a comparably-sized market to that of lactose-free alone.

What’s beyond compare is just how much more milk sales grew relative to plant-based during the pandemic – nearly $1 billion in growth compared to less than $400 million for plant-based.

Dairy Beats Plant-Based Growth

Data sources for information above: IRI/DMI/MilkPEP/DFW/CMAB custom database for milk and cheese; syndicated database for other products, IRI DMI/MilkPEP/DFW/CMAB custom database, Total US Multi Outlet + Convenience

True, plant-based posted a larger percentage gain during the pandemic – it always does, because its totals build from a smaller sales base. But in sheer sales growth, plant-based beverages aren’t on the same playing field as milk.

Everyone has a lot going on these days, and little of it is easy. But good news is even more appreciated whenever it can be found, and the consumer embrace of the foods that really matter is a part of the “new normal” that shows signs of becoming … normal. It’s showing some staying power – just like the 24/7, 365-days-a-year dairy industry itself. We remain strong, and ready for what’s ahead. The data backs it up. So does the determination.

Dietary Guidelines Reaffirm Dairy’s Nutritional Benefits; Fats Review Urged

NMPF praised USDA and HHS for its work on the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) released last week, which reaffirmed dairy’s central role in diet as a provider of essential nutrients that are often under-consumed in American diets.

NMPF also pledged to continue efforts to broaden consideration of the latest science on dairy fats in the next examination of the federal guidelines, which are released twice each decade.

“USDA and HHS deserve praise for once again recognizing just how vital dairy is to the nation’s health and well-being,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF. “We encourage them to affirm that role even more clearly in the next iteration of the Dietary Guidelines, to reflect the positive contribution of dairy fats in diets that’s increasingly recognized in a growing body of evidence.”

The guidelines culminate nearly two years of work that began in 2019 with the selection of the Scientific Advisory Committee, which drafts recommendations for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services.

The latest update to the guidelines restates dairy’s importance to diet. Highlights include:

  • A recommendation of three servings of dairy in the Healthy U.S. Eating pattern and Healthy Vegetarian Eating patterns, in keeping with past guidelines
  • Dairy’s continued recognition as a distinct food group
  • A recognition that Americans aren’t consuming enough dairy to meet their nutritional needs
  • Dairy’s reaffirmation as a source of four nutrients of public health concern, including potassium, calcium, and vitamin D, as well as iodine for pregnant women.
  • A recommendation of milk, yogurt, and cheese in the first-ever healthy eating patterns geared toward infants and toddlers ages birth to 24 months

“The panel’s recognition that dairy is a key source of ‘nutrients of concern’ in U.S. diets is especially important,” Mulhern said. “During a time of food insecurity and concerns about proper nutrition among Americans, dairy is a readily accessible solution to clearly identified public-health challenges. Dairy farmers work hard to be part of that solution, and the panel’s recognition of the nutritional importance of dairy is greatly appreciated.”

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans have significant implications for numerous government policy areas, including guiding the types of milk served in school meal programs and setting the parameters for how nutrition programs are implemented and developed.