The pandemic continues to impact dairy sales in two ways – sales are being compared to a heavy pantry-loading period in 2020, and the reopening of restaurants, businesses and travel and leisure is changing where meals are sourced, according to Dairy Management Inc. Nearly all dairy products show sales volume increases compared to two years ago (up nearly 13%), although slightly lower than 2020’s unusual sales year.

Dairy products showing double-digit growth include cheese, frozen novelties, cream/creamers, whipped topping and butter.

While overall fluid milk sales continue to struggle, whole milk is outpacing the sales of all other fat levels in 2021, growing its share to 42% of retail milk sales volume. Lactose-free milk is setting records with year-over-year sales growth and is the 6.4% of milk volume sold with 22% of households purchasing it at least once a year. Flavored milk sales have perked up, as well, with a year-to-date volume up 2% versus a year ago and nearly 3% compared to 2019.

During 2020, total dairy sales outperformed total store and total food sales, and dairy’s sales peaks were higher during the initial food stockpiling month of mid-March to mid-May. This impact is noted when comparing similar weeks in 2021 to that high sales period as total dairy sales declined at a steeper rate.

Declines have softened in the recent months with total dairy down -1% in the latest 4 weeks compared to year ago. As the year progresses, the highs and lows are anticipated to smooth out.