Fluid Milk Sales Soar Under COVID-19 Lockdowns
A funny thing happened as American consumers stopped eating out and began buying all their food at grocery stores as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic: Fluid milk sales soared.
Through March 8, 2020, total fluid milk sales continued their year-over-year decline, dropping more than 30 million gallons compared to 2019. Plant-based milk grew by 5 million gallons.
But then the COVID-19 quarantine and stay-at-home orders kicked in across much of the country, and consumers were forced to buy most, if not all, of their food at grocery stores. “As consumers emptied store shelves, both dairy and plant-based beverages saw gains, but the sizes of those gains were drastically different,” says Alan Bjerga, senior vice president of communications for the National Milk Producers Federation.
“While consumers bought bout 7.9 million more gallons of plant-based beverages during the two peak weeks in March (March 9 – 22) than they did during the same period a year earlier, milk demand exploded by more than 45 million gallons, erasing its year-to-date decline in less than two weeks,” he says.
As important, that 5:1 advantage has held through May. Between March 23 and March 31, fluid milk sales are up nearly 60 million gallons while plant-based beverages are up a little over 10 million gallons.
Bjerga acknowledges it’s difficult to predict whether these trends will continue as more states allow restaurants to operate more normally this summer and schools to re-open this fall. “What we do know is this: Milk is back in grocery carts, in a big way. Its gains are much greater than its self-proclaimed competitors and they’re showing signs of sticking.”