Allergies among factors cited for dip in milk consumption

Dairy producers want to know why fewer people are drinking milk.

A glass a day was common 20 years ago in Great Britain, Canada and the United States, but all have seen fluid consumption fall 25 percent for that period, says Richard Sanchez of Dairy Farmers of Canada.

Instead, consumers are switching to alternatives such as almond milk, bottled water and smoothies.

The decline in milk consumption is the equivalent of losing 129 farms, he told Alberta Milk’s annual meeting in Calgary Nov. 19.

One-third of farmer income comes from fluid milk and another third from products such as cheese. Cream and butter sales are actually doing well, he said.

The study that the dairy farmers group conducted with 6,800 households found that the decline is apparent across the country.

Among those who have almost stopped drinking milk are middle-aged empty nesters, but the study also found that one-quarter of the decline occurred in families with children younger than 12.

“That is concerning,” Sanchez said.

“We hoped that people see milk as a nutritious, wholesome product for their kids.”

Non-milk drinkers said they had health and nutrition concerns.

“The first was the perception that they are lactose intolerant or have allergies towards milk,” he said.

Ten percent said they were vegan and eight percent said they objected to using milk from cows and did not agree with dairy industry practices.

Dairy farmers spend $100 million a year on promotion and advertising. They particularly want to reach teenaged girls, who are at an impressionable age and experimenting with being a vegan.

“Some of them come back, but some of them never come back to animal based products at all,” said Katherine Loughlin of Alberta Milk.

Milk is also competing against products that didn’t previously exist.

Coca Cola has beverage sales of $79 billion a year. While people may not be drinking as many soft drinks, they are buying more bottled water, said Rob Newell of DDB Canada, a communications company that works with the dairy farmers group.

Dairy milk is competing against relatively new products on store shelves, such as almond milk and soy milk.

  • Health and wellness concerns are weakening demand for soft drinks and increasing the popularity of bottled water.
  • More desire for nutritious or nutrient-rich choices such as smoothies.
  • An increasing incidence and perception of food intolerances, which leads to alternate diets and choices. This has affected the dairy sector.
  • Misinformation about food.
  • More beverages and brands are competing for sales.

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