Whole milk and lactose-free sales up in US

Whole and lactose-free milk are two growing segments of US fluid milk consumption that are poised for further gains in grocery aisles, according to Alan Bjerga, executive vice president, communications and industry relations, National Milk Producers Federation, in a recent article in Hoard’s Dairyman.

Even as fluid milk continues its decades-long challenge of eroded consumption as beverage markets diversify and consumer preference shifts to other forms of dairy, both whole milk and lactose-free varieties are bucking that trend. According to data from Circana, which tracks retail sales, whole milk sales rose slightly (up eight million gallons, or 0.6%) in 2023 over 2022. Because overall fluid sales declined, whole milk now makes up 45.4% of total fluid volume sold and is easily the most popular variety.

Lactose-free milk, meanwhile, reached a milestone. By climbing 6.7% to 239.2 million gallons last year, it surpassed the sales volume of almond beverages, by far the most popular plant-based milk alternative beverage. Almond’s annual decline of 9.8% is a big part of an overall consumer move away from plant-based alternatives, which have now seen two straight years of sales volume drops. Buyers are emphatically rejecting years of claims that these beverages are a worthy substitute to dairy.

The National Milk Producers Federation is pushing for full congressional passage of the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act, which overwhelmingly passed the House in December and stands good prospects of passage in the Senate — if the right legislative vehicle can be found in a jam-packed election year. Bringing whole and 2% milk back to school meal menus is a great way to improve the nutrition of the next generation of milk drinkers. We have a call to action on our website urging senators to take up the bill.

Lactose-free milk is becoming the industry’s spearhead in ensuring equitable access to milk across diverse populations in federal nutrition programs. It is simply asinine federal policy to do what some vegan activists are proposing — increase access in federal programmes to plant-based beverages that are both nutritionally inferior and now falling out of favour with consumers — when a beverage exists that circumvents lactose intolerance and offers all of milk’s benefits because it is, after all, milk.

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