Consumers turn to dairy in Covid crisis as retail sales boom

Dairy experts say consumers turn to products such as milk and cheese in times of crisis
Dairy experts say consumers turn to products such as milk and cheese in times of crisis

The consumption of dairy products has boomed during the pandemic with experts cautiously optimistic about the future of the UK dairy market.

More people working from home during lockdown has resulted in a rise in dairy sales, according to experts who spoke at the Dairy-Tech event this week.

Jonathan Dixon, from Arla Foods, explained that British consumers had turned to dairy products since the start of the pandemic last year.

“The grocery market is booming with a huge upturn and a total food growth of 10%," he added.

"On the flip side, the food service sector has seen a downturn with the tough lockdowns.”

He said dairy had increased because of consumers looking after themselves more during lockdown and spending increasing time at home.

“Cheese consumption has risen by 15.7 percent with more people eating cheese at lunch," Mr Dixon said.

"Yoghurt sales have risen by 4.1% and butter by 16.1%, particularly block butter sales, due to more people home baking.”

Rob Hutchinson, Operations Director for Muller, said they had seen strong retail sales over the course of the pandemic.

“Cereal consumption is up 8%, which is good for milk sales. The challenge now is to maintain the level of consumption as we come out of lockdown,” he said.

The panellists, which also included journalist Chris Walkland and Chair John Allen from Kite Consulting, said they were optimistic about British dairy.

Mr Hutchinson said: “The markets recovered after March last year and the global stock position is lower than we expected coming into this year, which is a good position to be in.”

The exception is cream, which is seeing a big mismatch in the price compared to the European Union, he said.

This is largely because of Brexit and the extra export health certificates that are now required when exporting fresh products, like cream.

Mr Hutchinson added: “We hope to see the situation improve as there’s no doubt this is having an impact on the cream price.”

Mr Walkland said the outlook was good to firm for most commodities: “Cheddar is firm, mozzarella is firming, butter is good, and powders are okay, but cream is struggling.

"There are reasons to be optimistic on price, but sober on margins,” he added.