The future of flavored milk

by Donna Berry
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Strawberry flavored milk
Limited edition flavors and sugar reduction may increase consumption of flavored milk.

Flavored milk presents an opportunity to increase fluid milk consumption and get American consumers back to the number of daily dairy servings recommended by the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, said Tammy Anderson-Wise, chief executive officer of the Dairy Council of California, Sacramento.

The guidelines recommend adults consume three servings of low-fat and fat-free dairy products daily. Children between four and eight years of age should consume two-and-one-half servings, while children ages two and three

should consume two servings. The recommendations are expected to remain similar in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines, said Cary Frye, vice-president of regulatory and scientific affairs, International Dairy Foods Association, Washington.

Flavored milk represents approximately two-thirds of all milk sold in the U.S. school system, with many children relying on school milk to help meet their recommended daily dairy intake. Unfortunately, the milk served in some schools may be inferior in taste, prompting some students to throw it away.

Little boy drinking chocolate milk
Flavored milk represents approximately two-thirds of all milk sold in the U.S. school system.

“Consumption of flavored milk in schools continues to fall,” said Rebecca Leinenbach, vice-president of marketing and communications, Prairie Farms Dairy Inc., Carlinville, Ill. “In 2012, new nutrition standards in the National School Lunch Program (N.S.L.P.) required that low-fat flavored milk be replaced with fat-free flavored milk. Since, we’ve seen sizable declines in school milk volume.

“Retail data show that whole milk and reduced-fat milk account for nearly 70% of total milk volume sold. Yet schools are restricted from offering these products to students.”

The cooperative is hopeful that low-fat flavored milk may get back on school menus. Earlier this year, a bipartisan bill — The School Milk Nutrition Act of 2015 — was introduced in Congress to help reverse the decline. The bill focuses on preserving milk’s role in the N.S.L.P. and aims to improve the variety and availability of milk served in schools.

If the bill passes, it will create an opportunity for processors to reformulate flavored milk products with a variety of fat levels, said Ms. Leinenbach.

“We deliver milk to millions of students every day of the school year, and we’re confident that closing the gap between the taste of milk students consume at home and at school will increase consumption,” she said.

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