Sales in the milk category (as measured by dollars) were on the rise in 2011, up 6.7% in the 52 weeks ended Nov. 27, 2011. Unit sales, on the other hand were off 2.7%, according to Chicago-based SymphonyIRI Group. The category includes five segments: whole milk, skim/lowfat milk, flavored milk/eggnog/buttermilk, milkshakes/non-dairy drinks and kefir/milk substitutes/soymilk.

Sales of whole milk matched the overall category, increasing 6.8% to $2.8 billion, thanks to an average price increase of 27 cents. Meanwhile, unit sales decreased 3%. Horizon Organic from Broomfield, Colo.-based WhiteWave Foods (a unit of Dean Foods) was the best-selling branded whole milk. (Private-label brands sell the most.) The largest gains went to Deans branded milk from Dallas-based Dean Foods; dollar sales were up to $31 million, a 22% increase and unit sales were up almost 11%. Others seeing significant increases in dollar sales were Prairie Farms, Carlinville, Ill.,  (20.5%); Organic Valley, La Farge, Wis.. (14.8%); and another Deans Foods unit, Tuscan Dairy Farms, Burlington, N.J. (13.5%).

Skim/lowfat milk is the category star

Sales of skim and lowfat milk were up 6.6% to $7.5 billion but unit sales were down almost 3%. Private-label brands led the segment, with sales up 7.9% to $4.8 billion. Prairie Farms, had the largest gains in both dollar sales (up 22% to $105 million) and unit sales (up almost 10%). Dean Foods saw double-digit dollar sales upticks (10% each) in its Horizon Organic and Deans brands.

The flavored milk segment did not see any positive jumps for the period. Dollar sales were down only slightly (0.1%) to $746 million but unit sales slipped 7.5%. Nestle's Nesquik was the top-selling brand in the category. Total sales in the milkshakes/nondairy drinks category (led by Rice Dream from Imagine Foods, a unit of Hain Celestial Group) were $53 million, up 0.2%. Unit sales dropped 11.6%.

On the other hand, the kefir/milk substitutes/soymilk segment enjoyed growth. The segment was up 16% to $652.9 million in dollar sales with unit sales jumping 13.6%.WhiteWave's Silk, the top-selling brand, did not match the increases in the category. Its sales of $206 million were a 3.9% decrease compared to the previous 52-week period. Although it didn’t make the top 10, Bolthouse Farms (No. 13), jumped 567% to $6.8 million in dollar sales and increased unit sales by 619%. Others posting large sales increases include No. 3, Silk Pure Almond (87% to $79.5 million); and Blue Diamond Almond Breeze (Blue Diamond Growers, Sacramento, Calif.), rising 70% to $92 million.