Plant-Based Beverages Aren’t The Reason For Fluid Milk’s Decline
While plant-based beverages are often cited as the reason for the decline in fluid milk per capita sales, the facts don’t support that claim.
Milk still outsells plant-based beverages by a margin of more than 11 to 1, says Alan Bjerga, senior vice president of communications with the National Milk Producers Federation.
“Remember that as new beverages enter the market, the marketplace segments. Consumption of established beverages tends to decline as competitors take up shelf space,” he says. “Despite that dynamic, milk is holding up better than other established beverages.”
For example, milk’s per capita consumption has declined about 20 percentage points since 2000. Orange juice consumption has nearly dropped in half during that same time period.
The beverage that has gained the most in per capita sales and consumption is, believe it not, bottled water. In 2000, bottled water consumption was less than 20 gallons per capita. Today, it is more than double that.
“According to a 2017 study by Information Resources, Inc., about 82% of lost sales volume for white milk came from consumer switching [to other beverages], with most of the rest from lower overall beverage consumption,” says Bjerga.
The study shows 53% of white milk’s loss went to increased bottled water consumption, while coffee accounted for 11%, tea, 8% and other juices, 7%. Plant-based beverages came in fifth, at 6.6%. Other dairy beverages such as flavored milks or yogurt accounted for another 4.3%.
“Any argument that ties milk-consumption trends to an imaginary mass switching to plant-based beverages misses most of the story,” says Bjerga.
“One might even suspect the only reason this narrative exists at all is because plant-based imitators have gotten away with calling their products ‘milk’, contrary to federal regulatory definitions,” he says.