Dairy industry pumps $500 million into campaign to bulk up milk sales

With sales of milk as a beverage at the lowest level in more than 30 years, the dairy industry is fighting back with a $500 million campaign that includes products such as milk cartons that don’t require refrigeration until they’re opened.

Total U.S. beverage milk sales were about 52 billion pounds in 2013, according to the most recent available figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That’s about 6 billion gallons, the lowest level since 1982.

Changing consumer habits, more drink choices and a lack of dairy product innovation are behind the steady decline in milk sales, according to the industry.

While Americans consume about the same number of gallons of beverages as they did in the past, they’re drinking a lot less milk.

Beverage milk sales have fallen to such a low level, it may be impossible to curb the decline if the new campaign fails, said Tom Gallagher, chief executive of Dairy Management Inc., a national organization that promotes dairy products and is funded by dairy farmers.

“The numbers are devastating. At some point, milk could become an irrelevant beverage for the average consumer,” Gallagher said.

The new campaign stems from an alliance between Dairy Management Inc. and seven business partners including Dairy Farmers of America, a cooperative that represents thousands of farmers nationwide, including Wisconsin.

Product innovation, including flavored milk and dairy-based sports drinks, is essential, said Monica Massey, a Dairy Farmers of America senior vice president. <more>

Nov. 29, 2014 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel