In 2019, lactose-free milk sales grew twice as fast as sales of plant-based beverages, with lactose-free poised to surpass almond-beverage sales this year, according to the Arlington, Va.-based National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), citing data from Chicago-based market research firm IRI.
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 said. Dairy categories on the rise, 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.
This isn’t to suggest that some plant-based beverage sales aren’t growing, NMPF said. Indeed, some categories are rising quickly, but they’re growing from a tiny base.
Breaking it down further: Almonds drive the plant-based beverage category, with about three-quarters of sales. And almond-beverage sales are growing (although not as fast as lactose-free milk), NMPF said. Among plant-based beverages that aren’t almonds, soy is No. 2. But soy is declining, by more than 13% in 2018, from $248 million to $215 million, a percentage drop much greater than any sales decline in dairy.
Oat-based beverages are growing fast — 872% in 2019. But that will be impossible to sustain given it’s an incredibly small base: $7 million in 2018 to $68 million in 2019, NMPF said.
Meanwhile, Americans bought $13.88 billion of milk in 2019, down from $13.93 billion.