Milk Needs a ‘Glow Up’

Dairy industry marketers are trying to change Gen Z attitudes toward milk.

April 05, 2023

Marketing gurus are trying to reboot milk as a sports drink for Generation Z with a campaign that tells its audience “Gonna Need Milk,” reports The New York Times.

The love of milk has been slipping for decades. Americans’ annual milk consumption peaked at 45 gallons per person in 1945, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It fell to about 23 gallons in 2001, and by 2021 it was down to 16 gallons a year.

The dairy industry is hoping the new campaign will do what the “Got Milk?” mustaches on celebrities did for previous generations. “We have to reclaim milk’s mojo,” said Yin Woon Rani, the chief executive of the Milk Processor Education Program, a marketing arm of the dairy industry. The “Gonna Need Milk” slogan aims to do that.

The campaign takes several forms. Although the science about the health benefits and drawbacks of milk isn’t settled, some studies have found that chocolate milk contains basic electrolytes and a precise ratio of carbohydrates to protein that can help muscles recover after workouts. One strategy involves showing athletes that milk is a good sports drink.

Despite their attitudes about milk, young people eat plenty of cheese, yogurt and ice cream.

“They’re not abandoning dairy,” said John Crawford, a dairy analyst for Circana. “But they certainly are walking away from traditional dairy milk.”

The fluid milk category is one of the smaller ones in convenience retail, accounting for just 1.30% of in-store sales in 2021, a slight decrease from 2020. However, gross margins for milk increased in 2021 from 29.83% to 32.41%, which helped boost gross profit per store 14.4%, to a total of $830 per store, per month.

“From 2020 to 2021, category sales jumped 5.2% to a total of $2,562 per store, per month,” said Jayme Gough, research manager, NACS. “This indicates fluid milk continues to be an important part of a retailer’s merchandise mix, especially because people who come in to grab a gallon or half gallon of milk often pick up other items, too.”

Of the largest subcategories, flavored milk showed the most dramatic increase in per store, per month sales during both 2020 and 2021, as well as through the first half of 2022. Flavored milk represented 34.8% of category sales in 2021, according to NACS SOI data.

Weigel’s (Powell, TN), is among the convenience store companies that puts a focus on limited-time milk flavors to appeal to evolving tastes, which was featured in a NACS Ideas 2 Go video segment.