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Fluid milk sales dwindle to 62-year low

Corey Geiger, Managing Editor

September 9, 2021

After posting a record 55.4 billion pounds in total sales in 2009, it’s been all downhill for the beverage milk category. Last year, fluid milk sales totaled 46.4 billion pounds. Not only did those sales cap off an 11-year sales slide, those 46.4 billion in combined sales marked the lowest point in 62 years. Keep in mind that the U.S. population totaled 175 million in 1958 compared to 330 million last year.

Let’s dig deeper into the breakdown by listing bright spots, a product treading water, items in dwindling sales, and a category that should be given a mulligan due to the pandemic.

Bright spots . . .

Whole milk sales totaled 16.6 billion pounds. The category continued its rebirth by posting the best sales since 2005 when whole milk netted 16.9 billion pounds. Even so, whole milk isn’t even close to the 36.2 billion pounds in 1975.

Reduced-fat milk yielded a three-year high with 15.8 billion pounds in demand. However, just one decade earlier, reduced-fat milk had been at 19.1 billion pounds.

Treading water . . .

Flavored whole milk slipped only 2%, moving from 780 million pounds to 765 million pounds over the past two years. Overall, the category has grown over the past decade when sales were 551 million pounds in 2010.

Dwindling sales . . .

Low-fat milk or 1% milk fell to 5.8 billion pounds in 2020 after posting 6 billion in sales just one year earlier. Last year’s sales were the lowest since 1996 when U.S. consumers purchased nearly the same amount.

Skim milk continued to fall out of favor as fat is back. The 3 billion in sales matched the same mark posted in 1985.

A COVID-19 mulligan . . .

Flavored milk, other than whole milk, dropped a whopping 23% from the previous year to net 2.9 billion pounds. Prior to the 2020 sales total, the category had ranged between 3.6 and 3.9 billion in sales from 2005 to 2019. Presumably, this category was the hardest hit due to school closures across the country.

For a complete listing of fluid milk sales, go to USDA’s Dairy Data set.



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