News Article

Milk Consumption Trends

By Aces Staff
May 30, 2003

May 12, 2003

URBANA - Milk production was up by 2.6 percent in the United States in 2001, but milk consumption was up only about one percent, leading to a milk surplus, said a University of Illinois Extension dairy specialist.

“We are still producing more milk and milk products for the U.S. market than will be consumed,” said Michael Hutjens, who reviewed the U.S. milk consumption patterns during June Dairy Month.

Illinois, however, continues as a “milk deficit” state, he added. The state produces less milk than it consumes.

“The average American consumed 589 pounds of milk equivalents in 2002 but in Illinois we are only producing enough each year to provide 163 pounds of that amount,” he said.

The latest year for which other consumption statistics are available (2001) reveals some interesting patterns. Milk accounts for about 33 percent of the total dairy products with cheeses at 37 percent. Butter accounts for 13 percent of the total and frozen milk products constitute 9 percent.

Big winners among milk products in 2001 were: egg nog, up 33 percent; half-and-half, up 11 percent; sour cream, 9 percent; flavored milk, 5 percent; and yogurt, 8 percent. Products that dropped in consumption rate were: reduced and low fat milk, down 1 percent; whole milk, down 2 ½ percent; skim milk, down 3 percent; and buttermilk, down 4 percent.

Residents of Des Moines, IA were the nation’s top milk consumers in 2001, drinking 20.7 gallons per person, nearly double the U.S. average of 11.5 gallons. Chicagoans averaged about nine gallons per person and New Yorkers drank about 6.5 gallons per person.

Breaking down consumption figures by age reveals a disturbing trend, Hutjens noted.

“Children 12 and under consume, on average, 28 gallons per year with 90 percent of those in that group drinking milk,” he said. “During the teen years, 13-17, milk consumption drops to 22 gallons with only 77 percent of that group drinking the product. The 18-to-35 bracket consumes about 13 gallons of milk but only 57 percent in the category drink milk. In the 50-59 group, consumption drops to nine gallons with only 41 percent of the group consuming milk.

“As the U.S. population ages, this trend poses a challenge to the dairy industry.”

Hutjens noted that the dairy industry is relying on some major promotional campaigns to retain and gain consumers. The “3-a-day” promotion is sponsored by the Midwest Dairy Association. Illinois dairy farmers are part of this program and national promotion programs focusing on the message of consuming three servings of milk or milk products daily to meet the calcium requirements. That campaign will kick off this summer, he noted. Additionally, the national “Got Milk” campaign continues.

Milk continues to hold onto the number two spot in beverage consumption. Milk is the beverage of choice about 25 percent of the time with carbonated soft drinks coming in first at 33 percent. Coffee accounts for 15 percent of beverage consumption; bottled water is 8 percent with juice and tea both at 5 percent.

“Dairy remains a good buy in grocery stores,” said Hutjens. “Between 1986 and 2001, food prices overall rose by 173 percent. During the same period, dairy prices rose only 167 percent. Out of a total $8, 169 the average consumer spends each year on food, dairy constitutes $649 or 8 percent.”

One area of growth for dairy involves single-servings and flavored milks. In 2001, 417 new dairy products appeared on the market, including 20 new flavors of milk.

Hutjens believes there are opportunities for dairy growth in a number of foreign countries.

“In Sweden, the average consumer drinks 348 pounds of milk each year compared to 208 for the average U.S. consumer. However, in China average consumption is only seven pounds,” he said. “For butter, France is tops at 19.4 pounds per person compared to 4.7 pounds in the United States and 1.1 pounds in Mexico. France also leads in cheese consumption at 53.3 pounds compared to 30.8 pounds in the U.S. and four pounds in Japan.

“Countries like China, Mexico, and Japan constitute possible growth markets for U.S. dairy products.”

Also on the positive side is the ongoing debate over soft drink consumption by teens and debate over whether to ban carbonated drinks from school cafeterias. Hutjens noted that single-serving milk products are popular, but “what we lack at this point are vending machines for them.”

Throughout 2003, Hutjens predicted that U.S. consumers will have more choices in types, sizes, and flavors of milk and milk products.