Are you drinking less dairy and more soy, almond or whatever-milk? Dairies say you’re one of the reasons they’re falling on hard times.

Recently, Borden and Dean Foods, two multi-billion dollar, Dallas-based dairy conglomerates, filed for bankruptcy. Both blamed, in part, a shift in consumer taste away from traditional cow’s milk toward plant-based milk.

In short, they’re saying we’re drinking less milk. True?

For answers I'm looking at private market research, government data and talking to Caleb Bryant. He's a Senior Beverage Analyst with the market research firm Mintel.

“Are we drinking less milk?” I asked Bryant.

“The short answer is yes,” he said.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, per capita milk consumption has been falling slowly since the mid-'70s, down 41%.

But it's the more recent trends that are really striking.

Bryant's research shows that last year, Americans bought $2.4 billion worth of non-dairy milk, like almond milk and soy milk. That's up almost 40% over a five-year period.

Cow's milk still rules with $15 billion in sales, but over the same period sales are also down 22%

So, what's the biggest reason consumers are cutting back?

“When we ask them why they are drinking less milk it's primarily stemming from issues surrounding digestion," Bryant said. "They perceive non-dairy milk as being better for their overall digestion."

We're talking lactose intolerance, which turns out to be a pretty widespread problem. 

According to the National Institutes of Health, "approximately 65% of the human population has a reduced ability to digest lactose after infancy."

That doesn’t mean everyone is lactose intolerant, but many consumers do believe non-dairy milk is easier on their stomachs. Bryant said consumers also see non-dairy products as more sustainable for the environment.

“Many people are buying milk, dairy milk, it's still a household staple. They're just drinking it much less frequently,” Bryant said.

“Augmenting with almond milk, soy milk, whatever other kinds of milk?” I asked.

“Consumers, they might have both at home. They might use dairy milk for cereal, oat milk for their coffee, some of those trading behaviors going on,” Bryant said.

So, are we drinking less milk? Yes. 

But even though the dairy business is bad right now, milk is still a staple in the American diet. Got something you want verified? Send me an email at

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