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The State of Dairy 2021: The state of retail sales: Maintaining strength

Progressive Dairy Editor Dave Natzke Published on 12 March 2021
Retail sales

Driven by the change in at-home versus away-from-home eating habits, dairy sales through grocery stores and other retail outlets showed significant volume and value growth in 2020.

With more breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks being consumed at home, as well as a surge in at-home baking, growth was evident across nearly all product categories.



Citing Information Resources Inc. (IRI) U.S. grocery store data, the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA) reported sales through retail dairy departments grew by $7 billion in 2020, generating $61 billion. Biggest drivers were increased sales of fluid milk, natural cheese and deli cheese.

Strong retail sales should continue well into 2021. IRI shopper surveys indicate 44% of employed Americans expect to work from home at least once a week after a COVID-19 vaccine is widely distributed and restrictions are lifted. Nearly four in 10 (39%) shoppers expect the health crisis to last more than 12 more months.

Many behaviors adopted during the pandemic will likely continue in 2021, said Rebecca Leinenbach, vice president of marketing and communications for Prairie Farms, a dairy cooperative representing about 800 farm families in the Midwest and South. Emerging trends in 2021 will include:

  • Consumers will be looking for “right-sized” (smaller) products that they can take on the go.

  • Value and private-label products will gain traction as increased mobility squeezes consumer budgets.

  • Grocery and convenience channels will double down on investments in food service to capture lost restaurant sales.

  • Agile, quick responses used during the pandemic will become even more critical to meet evolving consumer needs and demands.

  • Consumers will value “sustainable” products even more. end mark

ILLUSTRATION: Illustration by Corey Lewis.

Also read: 


Northeast: Proceeding with caution

Southeast: More than a fluid situation

Postcard from North Carolina: Moving toward innovation

I-29 Dairy Corridor: Connectivity and caution

Postcard from Kansas: Optimism is more difficult

Postcard from Ohio: Plenty of uncertainty


Indiana: Updated strategy, leadership

The state of risk management: 2021 DMC enrollment jumps

Midwest: Pillars withstand quake of coronavirus

Southwest: Placing a tier on growth?

California: A family struggle

Idaho: An apprehensive start to 2021

The state of food service: A tough climb ahead

The state of the dairy herd: More cows, fewer heifers

The state of exports: Record volumes

Dave Natzke
  • Dave Natzke

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  • Progressive Dairy
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