U.S. Dairy Consumption Hits All-Time High in 2021 as Growing Category Evolves Toward Yogurt, Cheese, Butter

U.S. per capita dairy consumption jumped 12 pounds per person in 2021 — breaking previous records — led by strongest growth in yogurt consumption in a decade, according to International Dairy Foods Association.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — American consumers snapped up their favorite dairy products at a record rate in 2021, according to new data from the USDA Economic Research Service (ERS). The data released shows per capita consumption of dairy grew by 12.4 pounds per person over the previous year, continuing a near 50-year growth trend that started in 1975 when USDA began tracking annual consumption of milk, cheese, butter and everything else in the dairy case. The average American consumed 667 pounds of dairy on a milkfat basis in 2021 versus 539 pounds in 1975 when data was first established. Among the products showing strong growth are American-type cheese, up 0.5 pounds, butter up 0.2 pounds, and yogurt adding 0.7 pounds. Yogurt consumption grew at its strongest rate in a decade and American-type cheese consumption was the second biggest increase over the past 20 years.

“The growth and evolution of U.S. dairy is one of the greatest success stories in food and beverage today,” said Michael Dykes, D.V.M., president and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association. “Dairy begins with fresh, wholesome milk and then it becomes hundreds of delicious, nutritious products that fulfill America’s food and health culture. U.S. consumers turn to dairy for health and wellness, nutrition, escape, celebration, and so much more. That love for dairy is especially important now when so many shoppers are careful with their spending, underscoring that dairy remains affordable and nourishing to consumers at all income levels. Record U.S. dairy exports demonstrate that the world is turning to American dairy, too, putting the United States on a path to be the world’s leading supplier of affordable, sustainable dairy nutrition. All of this is a credit to America’s dairy foods makers who continue to innovate and evolve.”

In the past decade alone: domestic per capita consumption of cheese is up 13%; per capita butter consumption is up 18%; per capita yogurt consumption is up 2%. Overall, ERS data show American dairy per capita consumption across products consistently increasing each year, with 2021 up 4% over the past five years, 9% over the past 15 years, and 19% over the past 30 years.

“Americans and consumers around the world are rediscovering the joys of their favorite dairy food while finding new, innovative products that meet specific nutritional and health needs,” said Dykes. “Today’s dairy is different because dairy is evolving. All of U.S. dairy should be proud of this growth.”

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