Market Watch: Wholly Cow!

Market Watch: Wholly Cow!

I did not think I would ever be able to write the following sentence during my career, but lo and behold, the numbers tell the story. The consumption of whole milk, the beverage, has apparently turned the corner and is now in growth mode. I’ve had to wait 45 years, but, there, I finally said it. According to USDA data, milk consumption has been above the year-earlier level during seven of the past 14 months, ending with January of this year.

These numbers are based on Class I sales in the Federal Milk Marketing Orders and the California state order. The numbers cover sales in all marketing channels: retail, foodservice, ingredients and exports.
Retail milk sales data take us up through mid-April. Year-to-date retail whole milk sales were up 3.1%. We sold 11.6 million more gallons of whole milk in the first four and half months of 2015 than the same time frame in 2014.

The good news began last year. During the calendar year 2014, whole milk sales via grocery stores, gas stations and a whole host of other retail outlets were up 1.2% or 14.4 million gallons.
Total milk sales, as a beverage, have continued to decline, but whole milk is coming back into vogue. During 2012, whole milk accounted for 26.6% of the beverage milk sold here in the U.S. This percentage grew to 26.9% in 2013 and 27.8% in 2014.

The above data are for conventional milk sales. Organic whole milk sales, however, have done even better and grew from 25.6% of sales in 2012 to 30% in 2014. We’ve been in no-fat/low-fat “Hell” since the 1980s. That’s when the anti-fat movement gained traction in the news media and doctors’ offices. “Fat will make you fat” was the mantra of the movement.

It took more than 20 years, but saner minds finally prevailed. This thanks to the research efforts of Dairy Management Inc., other promotion groups around the world and a host of independent scientists.
Facts be known: Fat sates your appetite, and therefore, you eat less food. Fewer calories consumed mean fewer pounds of body weight gained. Fat (in moderation) is back in the good graces of the gods of nutrition. It was a long and hard battle, but your checkoff dollars are beginning to pay real dividends.

The battle over fat has not just claimed a victory for dairy in whole milk. Butter sales are on an uptick. In fact, butter was the first beneficiary of the new and improved nutrition research. Per capita consumption has been ticking higher for several years. At 4.5 lb. per capita in 2005, butter consumption stood at 5.5 lb. throughout 2013, which is the latest data available. This means an additional 350 million pounds of butter was consumed in the U.S. during 2013. Wholly Cow! 

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