Last week, the American Dairy Products Institute and the American Butter Institute held their annual conference in Chicago, Illinois. Conference attendees, which included manufacturers, marketers, and suppliers of dairy products all gathered downtown to listen to industry leaders discuss the state of dairy in the U.S. And surprise, surprise … they talked about plant-based milk. According to Dairy Reporter, the ADPI/ABI Conference was a space for several industry leaders to voice their concern over the threat that plant-based milk poses to the dairy industry.

Mike McClosky, co-founder and CEO of Select Milk Producers, expressed his beliefs that plant-based milk is “a serious threat” to the industry and added “many people have stolen the identity of milk over the years.” He closed his remark stating “we as an industry have sat back and not responded like we should have.” If McClosky is referring to the recent debacle in which members of Congress sent a letter to the FDA claiming that labelling plant-based milk as “milk” is “misleading to consumers … and a violation of milk’s standard of identity,” when he says they haven’t responded as they “should have”…  then we agree — dairy producers and processors could have responded to declining sales a little better.

Sheryl Meshke, co-president and CEO of Associated Milk Producers, Inc., expressed concerns about milk’s stolen identity: “If you think of the word ‘milk’ as a brand, they stole our brand which really conveys the fact that it’s a powerful nutrient-packed product.” Meshke believes that the solution to fixing the dairy industry is to “be more relevant to the Millennial consumer.”

However, research has shown that Millennials prefer to make choices that have a better impact on both society and the environment — but can the dairy industry ever really be these things? Not only does the dairy industry have a major negative impact on the environment, but dairy milk is also not the nutritional powerhouse that many of us once thought it was — it turns out, we can get the same nutrients from fortified plant-based milks and whole, plant-based foods.

Both McClosky and Meshke seem to believe that another way for big dairy to reach Millennials is by providing them with new, “innovative” dairy products. We think we can save them a lot of time with that, though, as there is plenty of innovation currently going on in the dairy-free produce world. In light of the environmental impact of a glass of milk (and not to mention, the $895 million almond milk industry), some California dairy farmers have converted their land to almond groves. Not to mention, a 92-year-old dairy plant that was forced to close due to a decline in sales recently reopened as a plant-based milk company.

So the dairy bigwigs can keep puzzling over the success of dairy-free milks – but we think it’s high time for the dairy industry to face reality: cow’s milk may be going out of style, but there’s a future in plant-based milk.

Lead image source: Alexander Prokopenko/Shutterstock