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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 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.

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.

Nominations are open for Fonterra’s board election but a repeat of the drama that rocked the vote three years ago can be ruled out.

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