When Was the Last Time You Bought Milk?
Like, from a cow.
Is oat milk killing cow’s milk? Yes, apparently, according to the most recent statistics from The Dairy Farmers of America (DFA). Last year’s net traditional milk sales totaled $13.6 billion, compared to $14.7 billion in 2017 (that’s a $1.1 billion loss), leading the organization’s president and chief executive officer Rick Smith to describe this as a “challenging” time for dairy. But while oat milk may be the culprit of the moment, the takedown has been a team effort, with rice milk, almond milk, soy milk, hemp milk, and coconut milk all playing their parts.
As Fast Company reports, the dairy alternatives industry is booming—back in 2017, the market size was estimated at $11.9 billion, and it’s expected to exceed $34 billion by 2024. Whole Foods has fully embraced consumers’ demands by installing make-your-own-almond-milk machines in select locations, while niche manufacturers like Ripple and Elmhurst are experimenting with alternative dairy alternatives like pea protein milk and peanut milk (fun fact about the latter: it’s purple!). Speaking of Elmhurst, the New York City-based company produced cow’s milk from 1925 until 2017, when their then-82-year-old CEO Henry Schwartz engineered a complete re-brand and switched to manufacturing nut milks. “It was time to embrace a new model and look toward the future,” Schwartz told Business Insider. “It’s about transforming with the times.”
Then, of course, there’s Oatly—the Swedish oat milk that made headlines last year for being perpetually sold out, thanks to its creamy texture and pleasant, bottom-of-the-cereal-bowl taste. It’s newest ad campaign slogan is, simply, “Ditch Milk.”
In the hopes that you won’t do just that, some dairy manufacturers are attempting to legislate the word “milk” as dairy-only. In Europe, plant-based products already must go by “beverage,” “drink,” or other substitute terms. While the FDA had previously avoided taking a stand on the issue in the States, last fall, FDA commissioner Scott Gottleib took a cue from Congress and issued a request for information, asking the public to weigh in on how it views non-dairy milks in the marketplace. You can learn more about it here.