dairy case
March 9, 2020

Lactose-Free Milk Sales Growth Outpaces Plant-Based Beverages in 2019

 |  By: Anna-Lisa Laca

It might seem hard to believe given all the hype about plant-based beverages stealing grocery dollars from milk, but in 2109 lactose-free sales grew twice as fast as plant-based beverages. According to the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), lactose-free milk is poised to surpass almond-beverage sales this year. 

“This isn’t to suggest that some plant-based beverage sales aren’t growing,” the Federation says. “Indeed, some categories are rising quickly, but they’re growing from a tiny base.”

Almond milk accounts for about three-quarters of sales, driving the plant-based category. While almond-beverage sales are growing, they’re not growing as quickly as lactose-free milk, NMPF notes. The next-best selling plant-based beverage is soy, but it’s declining. In fact, according to NMPF, soy-based beverage sales declined more than 13%—from $248 million to $215 million—in 2018. 

“Oat-based beverages are growing fast—an eye-popping 872% in 2019,” NMPF notes. “But that will be impossible to sustain given it’s an incredibly small base: $7 million in 2018 to $68 million in 2019.”

Meanwhile, American consumers bought $13.88 billion of milk in 2019, down from $13.93 billion in 2018.

“Contrary to some portrayals, the dairy sector is full of innovation, and lactose-free is a prime example of how dairy is addressing per-capita drops in fluid-milk consumption,” NMPF says. “Dairy categories increasing their sales, including whole milk (now more than two-fifths of consumer sales), lactose-free milk and flavored varieties, are giving plenty of reason for optimism about the future of milk. Meanwhile, plant-foods companies are ‘innovating’ by figuring out which nut or seed to run through the grinder next.”