Irish Milk Consumption Has Dropped By 50 Million Liters Since 2007

Havard Ruud

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Newly released statistics published by the Central Statistics Office shows that in 2014, 479,9 million litres of milk was sold for human consumption in Ireland.

That might sound like a lot, considering there’s “only” about 4,6 million people in this country. However figures shows it is actually 47 million liters less than in 2007.

Irish milk consumption between 2005-2014 in million liters.
Irish milk consumption between 2005-2014 in million liters.

The consumption is slightly higher than last year, but if we look at the consumption over the past ten years, it shows a dramatic fall.

Another interesting thing to look at is the Irish milk consumption from month to month. Especially the drop in consumption in February and March. Interestingly enough, the month in between, March, is the month where the Irish consume the most milk. Just over 44 million liters of milk was bought for human consumption in March 2014:

Irish milk cosumption by month.
Irish milk consumption by month.

Norway is another country with traditionally a rather huge milk consumption. It is also a reasonable country to compare with, as the Scandinavian country has about the same population as Ireland. Not too long ago, back in 2007 and 2008, the Norwegians drank almost 100 liters of milk each.

Irish and Norwegian milk consumption 2005-2014. Note that numbers for 2005 and 2006 are not available in Norway.
Comparison of Irish and Norwegian milk consumption between 2005-2014. Note that numbers for 2005 and 2006 are not available in Norway.

As the graph shows, the Norwegian milk consumption is declining as well. Although the drop is not as dramatic as in Ireland, the Norwegians consumed 14 million liters less last year than in 2008, and ended at 392 million liters of milk. The Irish milk consumption is still much greater in Ireland than in Norway, despite the half a million difference in population.

“The milk consumption in Norway has decreased from 89,80 liters per person in 2005 to 76,40 liters per person 2014. This is a decrease by 14,9 per cent. However, if we look at the century before, between 1995 and 2005, the decrease was 33 per cent. The milk consumption is sinking, but it seems to be stabalising”, says advisor for strategy and analysis in the Norwegian Dairy council, Thor Erik Johansen.

He points at three main reasons for why the consumption has gone down:

A glass of milk - Photo Credit: hobvias sudoneighm, (Flickr).
A glass of milk – Photo Credit: hobvias sudoneighm, (Flickr).
  • Change in life situation and meal habits. “Milk is for the most part consumed in conjunction with bread (breakfast, supper, lunch), and usually at home with the family and not out in the public. Since we eat more of our meals outside of the house, and more women are in employment, therefore the consumption of milk goes down.
  • A bigger diversity of information channels. “Earlier, the authorities’ advice that milk was healthy and should be a part of a balanced diet was prodominant. Today, the media is full of advices on what’s healthy, dangerous etc. These advices change fast, and who we listen to and trust as well. There has also been an increase of people who either are or think they are intolerant.
  • Change in competition. “There’s a much bigger assortment of beverages today than before, and new products shows up in the market all the time. Thus, milk has gotten much more competition from soft drinks, ice tea, energy drinks, etc. There has also become a huge focus on water as a thirst quencher.

When it comes to the seasonal changes, Johansen also has some theories.

“The low consumption during the summer is probably caused because milk is preferred cold, and it’s harder to keep it cool when it’s warm outside. Also we eat less meals at home because we’re not home as much. To some extent one eats food that does not contain milk during summer. For example we tend to barbeque more during summer”, says Johansen.

He also point at there’s less baking of cakes during summer, which a significally share of the milk is used for.

Numbers are collected form the Central Statistics Office, and the Norwegian Dairy Council.

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Havard Ruud