Cow's milk remains a staple in British households

Monday, 10 May 2021

Cow’s milk remains a staple product, purchased by 98% of British households (Kantar, 52 w/e 24 Jan 2021). With the Covid-19 pandemic, and resulting governmental restrictions generating an uplift in retail sales to a previously consistent market.

How has cow’s milk performed?

In the year ending 24 Jan 2021, retail spend on cow’s milk grew by 9.7% to £3.37bn (Kantar, 52 w/e 24 Jan 2021). This growth in retail sales was primarily driven by increased volume per shopping trip, as consumers chose to avoid shopping as frequently throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

Milk usage

As a result of nationwide lockdowns, occasions which were previously consumed out-of-home or on-the-go, were forced into the home. This meant that key consumption occasions for milk, including hot drinks such as tea, performed well. With milk in tea accounting for 48% of total milk occasions (Kantar, 52 w/e 21 Feb 2021).  


*consumption occasions can overlap, for instance milk in tea and milk on cereal could be consumed at the same time.

The in-home consumption of tea with milk grew by +13% year-on-year, as consumers turned to what they knew.  Which accounted for an extra 1,955m tea with milk occasions throughout the year (Kantar, 52 w/e 21 Feb 2021 vs. 2020). The Spring 2020 Milk Your Moments campaign successfully built on the consumer need for connection with friends and family in the consumption of milky drinks such as tea and coffee and encouraged people to share those moments via social media.

Milk type

Retail volumes of cow’s milk grew by 7.8% year-on-year. Within the cow’s milk category, growth was primarily driven by semi-skimmed up 11.4% (Kantar, 52 w/e 24 Jan 2021).

UHT and filtered cow’s milk experienced an exceptional year in terms of retail volume following the announcement of the Covid-19 outbreak in March 2020. With the latest figures showing that retail volumes of UHT and filtered milk were up 17.5% and 23.5% respectively (Kantar, 52 w/e 24 Jan 2021). This highlights consumer demand for an increased shelf life throughout the pandemic.


Branded vs. Private Label

Within the cow’s milk category, branded has experienced the greatest year-on-year growth in retail volumes at +15.8%, ahead of Private Label (PL) at +6.6%. Although branded milk volumes have grown faster than PL, the growth of PL is exceptional as it accounts for roughly 86% of the cow’s milk market in terms of retail volume (Kantar 52 w/e 24 Jan 2021).

The future

As a staple product, we predict milk will continue to do well in 2021. As 2020 was such an exceptional year for retail milk sales, year-on-year growth in 2021 may decline when compared to last year. However, home working is still elevated compared to 2019, therefore milk sales are predicted to perform above 2019 levels.