How Many Households Are Buying Dairy?

  • 3 min read May 15, 2024

We know the dedication it takes to run a dairy farm. Long hours, early mornings, and a deep connection to your animals and land – it's a way of life. But beyond the hard work, there's a reason you do what you do: you wake every day to feed the world with dairy, a nutritional powerhouse that America's families love.

Last year, more than 96% of U.S. households purchased real dairy products. When comparing retail purchases of dairy to plant-based alternatives, real dairy sales were 21 times larger.

But consumers want to know more about dairy and how it is produced. Here are some ways your checkoff is expanding consumers' knowledge of dairy farming and nutrition:

  • Product Innovation: Consumers’ tastes and preferences are always changing, which means dairy products need to evolve to stay relevant in the marketplace. By now, most farmers have heard of Fairlife, an ultra-filtered milk that has less lactose and more protein compared to regular milk. These value-added milk products have grown in popularity with retail sales being 27% larger than plant-based alternatives in this category. Additionally, you may have noticed GoodSport on your local grocery store shelves. This is a new sports drink that features upcycled milk permeate and has more electrolytes and less sugar than traditional sports drinks.
  • Influencers and Thought Leaders: Traditional advertising is no longer as effective with younger generations of shoppers. This is why the checkoff has adopted a digital-focused strategy. Partnerships with social media influencers and thought leaders help dairy’s story reach a wider audience through trusted, authentic voices. Nationally, the dairy checkoff has engaged with online influencers such as MrBeast (jump to the 4:30 mark) and local checkoffs are also partnering with online influencers and e-sports participants.
  • See Dairy Differently Campaign: This effort is reaching consumers with messages on dairy farmers’ commitment to sustainability. We’re featuring farmers from across the country to drive home the message that today’s dairy farms are modern businesses using technology to care for their land and cattle. This campaign has seen more than 200,000 clicks to articles and landing page content. Here is an example of an in-depth story about dairy’s responsible water use. The checkoff team driving the campaign has a vision that goes beyond sustainability to explore topics like nutrition, animal care and more to keep the content fresh and relevant.

Your checkoff also is working locally through state and regional organizations that are building sales and trust close to home. All local checkoffs are coordinating impressive programs, and here are a few examples from around the country:

  • American Dairy Association North East uses e-commerce platforms to drive dairy sales through informational messaging for dairy products. These messages focus on cross-merchandising, nutritional benefits and dairy-centric campaigns. The advertising focused on different dairy products throughout the year, such as lactose-free milk, smoothies and cheese. In one year, this campaign helped generate nearly $4.5 million in dairy sales with the ads being seen more than 22 million times.
  • The Dairy Alliance began a program aimed at driving new dairy product innovation. The Dairy Alliance team members who support this program identify and support high-potential dairy startups within the region to attract investment in innovative dairy products that are relevant to today’s consumers. This program was launched in 2024 and The Dairy Alliance is working with two companies on five new products with plans to be in market this year.
  • American Dairy Association Mideast was part of a checkoff-led pilot in Cincinnati schools that offered lactose-free chocolate milk increased consumption and reached students who weren’t drinking milk because of real or perceived lactose intolerance. Key findings of the pilot were that when students have the option to choose lactose-free milk, both milk selection and meal participation increase overall. Compared to the rest of the Cincinnati district, the pilot schools experienced a 16% increase in milk consumption and 7% higher meal participation.


*Retail data source: Circana