It’s no secret that the fluid milk category has been struggling at retail for quite some time. However, sales of flavored milk and whole milk actually made some impressive gains in the not-too-distant past.

But the party appears to be over for those two subcategories — at least for now. Both flavored milk and whole milk lost ground in terms of dollar sales during the 52 weeks ending Dec. 2, 2018, according to data from Chicago-based market research firm IRI.

Part of the blame can be placed on the ever-growing popularity of dairy-alternative beverages. Nondairy milk sales grew a whopping 61% between 2012 and 2017, global market research firm Mintel noted.

The shift away from traditional dairy products such as cow’s milk toward plant-based alternatives is tied to increased concerns on the part of consumers related to health and animal welfare, the Packaged Facts division of Rockville, Md.-based noted in its 2017 report titled “Dairy and Dairy Alternative Beverage Trends in the U.S., 4th Edition.”


Flavored milk lost steam

The refrigerated flavored milk/eggnog/buttermilk subcategory saw dollar sales fall 1.5% (to $1.5 billion) during the 52-week timeframe; unit sales also declined by 1.5% (to 679.4 million). But several brands among the top 10 did post positive results.

Leading the pack here was the Hispanic Lala brand (Lala U.S. Inc.). The brand’s dollar sales rose 20.6%, while its unit sales increased 19.7%. Close behind was Hood (HP Hood LLC), which saw 15.5% and 10.4% gains in dollar and unit sales, respectively. Ultra-filtered, high-protein milk brand Fairlife (Fairlife LLC) also fared well. It saw a 9.7% gain in dollar sales and a 5.0% improvement in unit sales.

The biggest loser among the top 10 was TruMoo (Dean Foods). The brand’s dollar sales fell 8.4%; its unit sales declined by 7.5%.


Whole milk sales were flat

Although unit sales within the refrigerated whole milk subcategory actually jumped 1.7% (to 1.7 billion), dollar sales tumbled 0.9% (to $4.8 billion).

But Fairlife bucked the trend, posting impressive 52.1% and 45.0% dollar and unit sales gains, respectively. Hood Lactaid also had a strong performance among the top 10: Dollar sales were up 11.7%, and unit sales were up 9.7%.

But most of the remaining top 10 brands struggled. Posting the most significant declines were Hood, with dollar sales dropping 5.9% and unit sales falling 2.9%, and Prairie Farms (Prairie Farms Dairy), with dollar sales dropping 3.8% and unit sales falling 0.9%.


Reduced-fat milk posts steep decline

The most significant declines, however, took place in the skim/low-fat milk subcategory. The segment has been struggling since Americans started making a return to higher-fat products.

Only one top-10 brand — Fairlife — posted positive results for the 52 weeks in IRI’s reporting period. The brand saw dollar sales rise 34.8% and unit sales climb 28.7%.

Faring the worst among the top 10 brands was Hood. The brand’s dollar sales declined 12.6%, and its unit sales fell 11.5%. Hiland (Hiland Dairy Foods Co.) also realized double-digit declines. The brand’s dollar sales plummeted 11.1%, and its unit sales took an 8.8% dive. Close behind were DairyPure and Prairie Farms. Dollar sales for both brands took a 9.7% nosedive; DairyPure’s unit sales fell 7.9%, and Prairie Farms’ plunged 7.3%.