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Good Question: Why Are We Drinking Less Milk?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- When it comes to milk, Americans are drinking much less than we used to. According to USDA statistics, we drank 0.96 cups of milk a day in 1970. By 2010, that dropped to 0.61 cups.

"I think it's because a lot of people don't understand that even as adults we need to be having dairy products every day," said Deb Sheats, the director of the Nutrition and Dietetics program at St. Catherine University.

The USDA recommends three servings of dairy a day.

The drop-off for drinking milk starts in the later teenage years. In 2008, 76 percent of children drank milk everyday compared to 46 percent of teenagers and adults.

"For women, it's often around dieting," Sheats said.

The milk industry knows the falling numbers and has launched several campaigns, including "Got Milk?" as well as its more recent "Got Chocolate Milk?" videos that feature prominent athletes drinking chocolate milk as a post-workout drink.

Many experts say the wider availability of sports drinks and waters has contributed to our reduced consumption of milk. Lifestyle changes, including fewer breakfasts at home, have also been noted as a factor.

"Bottled water is really popular and I think part of that is we're so on-the-go and that is so readily available," Sheats said. "People don't think I could grab a bottle of skim milk on-the-go as well."

Dr. Marin Bozic, assistant professor in dairy foods marketing economics at the University of Minnesota, studies dairy trends. He attributes part of the decline in milk consumption to a lack of creativity when it comes to branding and packaging milk. For example, he says orange juice producers have turned the product from a commodity to a brand with calcium-fortified and some pulp versions.

"If we are more innovative in the fluid milk category, we will be able to attract back those customers," said Bozic.
Some people suggest more Americans are lactose intolerant these days and less likely to turn to milk.

Sheats doesn't believe there's more lactose intolerance, but rather better diagnosis of the condition.

"Even for someone who is lactose intolerant, there's all kinds of dairy sources that are lactose free," she said.

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