For years, a variation of this sentence has appeared in nearly every news story that touches on fluid milk consumption: “Milk sales are down while plant-beverages are rising.”
It’s easy shorthand to use because while it has been a factually accurate statement in its own limited scope, it can be used toward fantastical ends, such as overhyping the rise of plant-based drinks or crafting a false narrative about dairy trends when dairy, as a whole, is seeing its highest per-capita consumption levels in decades. The assertion will never require a correction in a newspaper, so it persists.
Except … it’s no longer true. The coronavirus crisis appears to be resetting consumer grocery habits, and early signs are that that some of these changes — including increased milk purchases — are continuing as the country re-opens. If current trends hold, milk’s revival may finally force a revision of one of the few non-fake talking points the “death of dairy” myth ever had.
This year’s data tells the story. While milk outsells plant-based imitators by a margin more than 10 to 1, 2020 began as another year of slow decline for milk sales in stores. And indeed, as the shorthand would have it, plant-based volumes were increasing.
July 10, 2020