Dairy retail sales remain above pre-pandemic levels

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Sales of all dairy products in supermarkets remain higher than they were before the pandemic, with 302 million more liters of milk purchased last year compared to 2019.

According to a new analysis from the AHDB, all categories of dairy products in 2021 – including milk, cheese, butter, cream and yogurt – remained significantly high compared to the pre-pandemic period, although none were able to reach 2020 records during lockdown.

In 2021, cheese volumes increased by 13.2% compared to 2019, with specialties and continentals leading the way with 27% more products sold in stores.

Cheddar accounted for 49% of total volumes and was up 11% from 2019, the AHDB said in its report released today.

While butter volumes were down 1.8% from a year ago, the category saw significant growth from pre-pandemic levels, with volumes up 16.5%.

Cream saw the smallest decline from 2020 levels, with retail volumes down just 0.5%, but the strongest performance from 2019 – up 21.3%, with increasing use in savory cooking.

Yogurt saw the smallest lockdown push among dairy categories with volumes down 1.6% year-over-year and gains of just 4.3% from 2019, according to the report.

According to AHDB, this category suffered from the loss of take-out lunch boxes, as well as a reduction in promotions. However, yogurt drinks, although a much smaller category, have room to grow.

Kim Heath, AHDB’s senior director of retail information, said that with the easing of Covid restrictions last year and the reopening of restaurants and cafes, retail sales have not been able to maintain the record volumes seen at the height of the pandemic.

“However, it’s incredibly encouraging that when you compare all categories to 2019 – a normal year – every dairy product saw retail growth in 2021.

“Dairy products as a whole remain significantly up from 2019, increasing by 11.3% in value and 6.3% in volume.”

Research shows milk volumes increased by 5.8% compared to 2019, with semi-skimmed contributing the most to growth.

With more people consuming milk at home, large four-quart bottles accounted for 46% of growth.

Ms Heath added: “As a commodity, dairy will continue to do well in 2022, despite slowing growth last year as restrictions eased.

“We can see that people in the UK continue to appreciate dairy products, with 77% of consumers saying dairy is a vital part of their daily diet and 99.5% of households bought dairy every months in 2021.”

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