Organic milk and milk alternatives enjoyed a broader consumer base in 2011, yet conventional milk sales shrank in most markets.
See upper right for more captions. Photos and text by Jenna Telesca .
See related article: Conventional Milk Sales Losing Ground .
Milk sales slumped in 2011 in most markets, with unit sales down 3% to 4% in the 52 weeks ending Nov. 27, according to Chicago-based SymphonyIRI Group. Retail prices also rose sharply, approximately 10%.
While high prices contributed to this year’s sales decline, Hartman Group Culinary Director Melissa Abbott said consumers are concerned about lactose sensitivities and the artificial bovine growth hormone rBGH. The selection and quality of milk alternatives have also been improving.
At San Jose, Calif.-based Mi Pueblo Foods, sales improved 27% since last year. Grocery Director Al Patiño attributed this growth to customer participation in the USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, which lists milk as an approved item.
Gallons are popular with Mi Pueblo shoppers with large families. But, half gallon sales are up 40%. Half gallons become particularly popular toward the end of each month. “So consumers are looking for that end of the month value proposition, when they no longer have the WIC voucher, and they’re trying to stretch a $20 bill, which most of our families do,” Patiño said.
Organic sales boomed in 2011, due in part to customer concerns about health and the smaller price difference from conventional milk. Because of the high cost of organic grain, and tight supplies in most markets, organic milk prices are likely to jump in the coming months.
Consumers continue to embrace milk alternatives. Sales were up almost 13% for the refrigerated kefir, milk substitutes and soy milk category, according to the SymphonyIRI report.
Soy may be losing its appeal. Shoppers are concerned about hormone issues, genetically modified organisms and digestion, Abbott told SN.
Almond milk is gaining momentum due to a healthy halo and better processing, Abbott said.
Despite coconut water’s popularity, coconut milk may not be catching on. “The repeat purchase isn’t happening just because the flavor doesn’t seem to be there quite as much,” Abbott said.
Customers are turning more to the fermented milk drink kefir. “We’re seeing that grow in the more cutting edge, as we call them, health and wellness consumer,” Abbott said. Mi Pueblo also saw this category grow in select markets.