Retail Dairy Sales Strong, but Foodservice Slump Drives Dairy Surplus

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Sales of milk and dairy products have shifted dramatically over the last few weeks due to the widespread impact of COVID-19.

Initially, retail sales surged as consumers stocked-up. Retail sales data for weeks ending March 15 and 27 show retail milk sales increased 44 and 42 percent, respectively, over the same period last year. This accounts for incremental sales increases of 22 million gallons per week.

Currently, panic-buying conditions have lessened with stores occasionally experiencing temporary out-of-stocks due to delivery issues. Overall, retail milk sales remain strong and are a positive force for farmers and the industry.

However, the big player in dairy product use is cheese. More than one-fourth of U.S. dairy production is used as cheese, and 50 percent of cheese is sold through foodservice channels, including restaurants, fast-food, institutions and schools.

Our best data shows that depending on the type of foodservice, sales are currently down 30 to 60 percent due to ramifications of COVID-19. This sudden, drastic decrease in foodservice use is a major contributor to excess milk supplies in the marketplace.

While many schools continue to serve meals, they’re serving only about 20 percent of the volume compared to when schools were in session.

To address the rapidly changing market conditions, American Dairy Association North East deployed our retail staff to redirect their work in stores helping short-staffed retailer stores stock more than 54,400 dairy products throughout the region. They also contacted the major retail chains in our market area – representing about 1,400 stores – to confirm that orders to limit the quantities of milk shoppers can purchase have been removed. 

As more meals are being prepared and consumed in homes, we have increased traffic to our recipe website,, highlighting meal solutions and snacks that feature dairy including Baking with Kids and Dine in Diner Style.

With fitness centers and bars closed, we added extra ideas for consumers including DIY Your Own at Home Gym and Happy Hour at Home.

ADA North East placed media stories to help consumers find easier access to milk and dairy foods. Stories promoting home delivery of milk and modern-day milkmen received 41 media placements with 11.3 million combined media impressions and potential reach.

Additionally, we are supporting families at home in their need to educate and occupy children while schools are closed. Our virtual farm tours – both recorded versions and special live daily episodes – have garnered nearly 600,000 views!

The landscape of this “new normal” changes daily. Now more than ever, dairy checkoff and the relationships our staff members have with retailers, school districts and consumers are vital to maintain consumers’ strong trust in dairy farms, dairy farmers and dairy products.

By helping to ensure families have milk and dairy available for purchase when they are shopping for groceries and helping to assure nutritious meals are available for students wherever they are learning, we are helping to maintain dairy as a vital staple in American homes.

For more information about American Dairy Association North East’s efforts to promote milk and dairy products during the national Coronavirus pandemic, call 315.472.9143.


About American Dairy Association North East

American Dairy Association North East (ADA North East) is the dairy farmer-funded organization funded by participating dairy farmer’s checkoff investment to build demand and sales for milk and dairy foods throughout the local region. Representing more than 10,000 dairy farm families in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and northern Virginia, ADA North East develops and implements local programs to drive milk and dairy sales at retail outlets and in schools. The organization also conducts consumer education about dairy through events, traditional and social media, and in collaboration with health professionals through National Dairy Council®. ADA North East works closely with Dairy Management Inc.™, the national dairy checkoff organization, to support nutrition research, national partnerships and developing export markets for dairy to bring a fully integrated promotion program to the region. For more information, visit, or call 315.472.9143.