WASHINGTON —The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) released their annual per-capita dairy consumption data today and the story, despite major shocks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, US consumers are still reaching for dairy products. The information from USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) adds 2020 data to an accounting of per capita dairy consumption dating back to 1975 when the average American consumed just 539 pounds of dairy foods per year. Last year, the average American consumed 655 pounds of dairy in milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, butter and other dairy foods, demonstrating a resilient and growing interest in dairy. The 2020 figure represents an increase of 3 pounds per person over the previous year.

“What 2020 shows us is that Americans are choosing to include dairy in all parts of their day because it’s delicious, nutritious and fits almost any occasion,” said Michael Dykes, D.V.M., president and chief executive officer of the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA). “Despite challenges posed by the pandemic to all parts of the supply chain in 2020—including the near-overnight loss of the foodservice sector—per capita dairy consumption continued to surge upward thanks to growth in ice cream, butter and yogurt. Last year’s consumption figures are nearly 70 percentage points above the annual average, showing America’s growing appreciation for their favorite dairy products.”

Ice cream continued to rebound and grew by 6% year-over-year in 2020. Meanwhile, yogurt consumption jumped 3% and butter notched a 2% increase. Milk and cheese remained resilient throughout 2020 despite the closure of restaurants, cafes, schools, and other institutions that drive demand. Overall, ERS data show American dairy consumption continuing its growth trajectory. Since USDA began tracking dairy consumption in 1975, per capita consumption has grown 22%.

“How we consume our dairy is different than a generation ago,” Dykes said. “Americans eat more dairy than we drink and we include dairy in all meals and occasions as well as for fitness and recovery, to live a healthy life, and to celebrate those special moments. With a greater focus on producing sustainable foods, dairy will continue to grow as a category well into the future.”