MILK SALES UP IN FIRST THREE QUARTERS OF '96

WASHINGTON -- Milk sales climbed slightly through the first three quarters of 1996 compared with the same period a year before, said industry researchers, indicating that 1996 may well post the largest year-to-year increase for fluid milk sales in eight years.nd skim milk showed the most significant growth, indicating that consumers are continuing to move away from 2% milk.The USDA figures, reflecting

WASHINGTON -- Milk sales climbed slightly through the first three quarters of 1996 compared with the same period a year before, said industry researchers, indicating that 1996 may well post the largest year-to-year increase for fluid milk sales in eight years.

nd skim milk showed the most significant growth, indicating that consumers are continuing to move away from 2% milk.

The USDA figures, reflecting 91% of fluid milk sales nationwide, show sales for the January-to-September period at 37.9 billion pounds. Figures for the period through August showed skim milk sales were up 6.9% compared with the year before, while 1% skim milk sales increased 1.7% during the same period. Whole milk sales were up 0.5%, reversing a downward trend that has affected whole milk sales for more than 20 years. Only the 2% segment of the milk market showed a decline in sales, down 1.5% from the January-to-August 1995 period.

A spokesman for a national milk promotion program said the sales data was encouraging.

"We feel positive about the steady improvement of milk sales over the first nine months of the year, especially in light of record high consumer prices for milk," said Kurt Graetzer, executive director of the Milk Processor Education Program here. "It may seem like a small increase -- 0.8% -- but to a $29 billion-plus industry facing a small profit margin and a 30-year general decline in sales, this is great news."

Graetzer's organization, known as MilkPEP, runs the national "milk mustache" generic promotion campaign, which was initiated to change attitudes about milk.