Dear Mr. Dairy

In an open, free market, each dollar spent is an endorsement, a vote, for the business and/or product. In increasing numbers these votes are switching from dairy to plant-based milk. According to Mintel, sales have grown 61% over the past five years.

The dairy industry wants us to accept the growth is due to consumers being confused over the usage of the term “milk.” However, a new survey by the International Food Information Council (IFIC), demonstrates this is not the case.

Plant-based “milks” declare loud and proud on pack that they are non-dairy, so claiming mass confusion was always going to be a long bow for the dairy companies to draw – but desperate folk….

The evidence is clear consumers are making a conscious, and in some cases a conscience-driven, choice to purchase plant-based milks. They choose for wellness, for the environment, for taste and for their animal welfare concerns.

Affronted and agitated, the peeved dairy industry is demanding government intervention. They seek the full weight of federal law be brought to bear on any and every use of the word “milk” unless applied to domestic animal lactate. They seek draconian censorship of the very word “milk.”

“Milk” has been in common usage for hundreds of years for plant-based milks: soy milk since 1365, coconut milk since 1698 and almond milk since the 12th century.

Dairy is presenting itself to the government as the champion of consumer interest. Dairy wants to “save” consumers from plant-based-milk induced confusion. Yet dairy aggressively fights off all government attempts to reduce the levels of somatic cell contaminant in the milk it supplies to the same consumers. The U.S. imposes on its consumers, at the determined insistence of the dairy industry, the highest allowable somatic cell concentration in the developed world. The dairy industry insists U.S. consumers just stomach it. With that as the measure of dairy’s concern for the wellbeing of consumers, the claim they are motivated by altruistic concern for consumers on this “milk” thing is unmasked.

Mr. FDA, consumers are not confused, and neither should you be. What is clear is this “milk” issue will reveal what it is each of the involved hold most dear.

For dairy, the fight they are in is for the continuation and expansion of the massive transfer of wealth from taxpayers to the dairy industry. An industry that is mostly made up of large agribusinesses far removed from the down-to-earth American family farm they want us to envision.

For many consumers, the values they hold and identify with dictate it is time to actively support more efficient, Earth-friendly forms of agriculture. Many others believe they cannot, will not, support the dairy industry’s treatment of animals. Yet others seek the wellness of a plant-based diet.

In opposing these consumer groups, dairy is placing itself on the wrong side of history. In a global shift of consciousness of historic proportions, end users are thoughtfully and purposely shifting their spending away from inefficient and polluting agricultural systems.

Consumers, inadvertently or not, express their values with every dollar they spend on food (see what is going on with Fairlife, showcasing why consumers are choosing not to spend on dairy). Every consumer will make thousands of food purchases in their lifetime. Consumers can speak to corporations and agriculturalists in the language they listen most attentively to – their market share and profit. Consumers can through their spending support an agricultural system, cause it to adapt or make it shrivel on the vine (so to speak).

U.S. dairy’s leadership group is demonstrating a lack of vision with the actions they are taking. They are demonstrating lack of empathy and are underestimating the rise into global consciousness of chronic eco–anxiety and the impact it is having on people’s priorities. Industries that pollute and exploit can fully expect reduced respect and greatly reduced consumer financial support to impact their valuation.

Mr. Dairy, they already have your attention – this is a good time to recognize the folly of totally alienating these most proactive and motivated consumers. Don’t confirm through your actions you care more about political influence than you do about them. Consumer numbers, their goodwill and purchases are the very basis of your political standing and as they go, so goes your influence.