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By the numbers
•Preteens who didn’t drink any milk on a given day rose from 12 percent to 24 percent from 1978 to 2008.
•Preteens who drank milk three times or more a day dropped from 31 percent to 18 percent from 1978 to 2008.
•Indiana has 1,200 dairy farms, down from 1,600 about five years ago.
•More than 50,000 dairy farms in the U.S. provide milk and other dairy products to the U.S. and other countries.
•A cow will produce an average of 6.3 gallons of milk each day and about 350,000 glasses of milk in a lifetime.
Photos by Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Kris McGuire, an associate at the Health Food Shoppe, straightens the varieties of milk the store stocks.

Competition gulps market of cow’s milk

Consumption dip linked to youth exploring options

Several varieties of milk are available at the Health Food Shoppe on North Anthony Boulevard.

Traditional milk, mooove over.

Consumers are gulping down alternatives of the beverage made from almonds, coconuts, rice, flax and soy. And then there are all sorts of trendy juices, teas and bottled waters.

Good old milk, though, keeps fading from grocery lists.

Milk’s rate of decline in 2011 and 2012 was the highest in more than a decade, though per capita consumption has been falling for years and dropped 25 percent from 1975 through 2012, according to federal data.

Milk drinking by both youth and adults has particularly declined during what would be considered primetime. The tall, cool glass of milk with a sandwich at lunch or a burger at dinner is increasingly old school.

And not necessarily good for everybody.

Lora Beachy is food buyer for the Health Food Shoppe, 3515 N. Anthony Blvd. She said most of her alternative milk customers generally buy for three reasons.

“Allergies, lactose intolerance or they just plain don’t like cow-based milk,” Beachy said. “Other people who are trying to lose weight may go with substitutes because they don’t want the calories.”

Beachy said sales of milk alternatives have especially grown during the past few years, but still account for less than 3 percent of sales at her outlet.

“Nutritional supplements are the big seller,” Beachy said.

Customer Nancy Lichtensteiger was looking for something in place of soft drinks Friday at the Health Food Shoppe. The 45-year-old yoga instructor left with a bottle of sparkling pomegranate juice.

“I’m trying to stay away from the colas because of all of the chemicals in them,” she said. “I’ve never tried this before, but it looked good.”

As for milk, the industry has seen even its most devoted milk drinkers – kids – stop consuming as much as children once did.

“It’s kind of the younger generation we’ve lost,” said K.J. Burrington of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Dairy Research.

The American Dairy Association of Indiana Inc. said milk production contributes $743 million to the Hoosier economy.

The state has ranked 14th in the nation in milk production for at least the past five years, said Jenni Purcell, a dietitian and senior director of communication and wellness at the state group.

“Research has shown that milk is still one of the best sources of calcium,” she said. “It’s better than some (substitutes) that don’t naturally contain nutrients but have them added later.”

Purcell said consumers should be wary before waving bye-bye to traditional milk based on what they read on Internet blogs and social media sites.

Nonetheless, Joanie Simon says she’ll continue her dietary habits.

“I think it’s healthier,” said the 49-year-old Fort Wayne mother of six home-schooled children.

“I stay away from gluten and dairy products. With cow milk, there are issues with congestion and inflammation in the sinus areas. I drink almond milk. It’s been good for me.”

The Minneapolis Star Tribune contributed to this story.

Source: Department of Agriculture, American Dairy Association of Indiana Inc. and