Fluid Milk Sales Continue Downward Slide
Fluid milk sales continued their downward slide in April, down 6.1% from April 2016 and down 3.1% year to date.
Even organic milk sales, which had been the bright spot in sales data, are down 5.6% year-to- date though they did increase 0.6% in April. Organic milk accounts for about 5% of all fluid milk sales.
The lone bright spot in all this gloom is conventional whole milk sales, which were up 9% in April and up 13.6% year-to-date. Whole milk sales have shown strength over the past 16 months.
But reduced fat, 2% milk sales were off 3.9% in April. Low fat, 1% milk sales were down 8.1% and skim milk was down 13.6%.
Regionally, milk sales fell the furthest in the Upper Midwest, with orders down 6.9%. Conversely, just to the south in the Central Milk Marketing Order, sales were down just 1% and sales in the Southwest were down 1.5%.
Some of the softness in milk sales can likely be attributed to market share erosion to non-dairy products such as soy, almond and coconut beverages. The National Milk Producers Federation is pressing the Food and Drug administration to enforce standards of identity regulations which prohibit non-dairy beverages being labeled as “milk.” A bill now before Congress, the Dairy Pride Act, would require FDA to enforce its own regulations.
“Milk should be milk,” says Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation, “rather than an industrial-produced, artificially whitened, watery beverage formed with nut or grain pastes and some flavoring and emulsifiers.” He says many popular vegetable imitators such as rice and almond beverages have little protein and widely-varying amounts of vitamins and minerals.
But opponents of the bill say the battle in the dairy case over milk’s identify should be played out in the market place, not through government regulation. If enacted, the Dairy Pride Act could also come under court challenge over free-speech concerns.