GREEN BAY – The long-term population demographic changes in the United States favor the consumption of specialty cheeses and a continuing lag in per capita consumption of fluid milk, Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board market research manager Suzanne Isige told representatives of county dairy promotion groups at their annual update meeting.

Drawing on data from the national census and other sources, Isige noted that in 2018 the largest single age group in one half of the counties in the United States will be residents who are at least 60 years old. By the year 2060, just over one half of the nation's population will be over age 40, she added.

Population trends

Current estimates put the nation's population at close to 416 million by 2060 – up from the 322 million in 2015, Isige continued. Although the population gain over the next 15 years is projected to be 36 million, the percentage rate of growth will be slower than in the past, she pointed out.
By the year 2060, the ethnic breakout of the population is projected to include 200 million white Caucasians and 120 million Hispanics, Isige indicated. The African American total will be about 51 million or 13 percent of the 416 million while Asians will account for 11 percent (45 million) of the nation's population. Isige noted that Asians (mainly from India and China) provide the highest number of immigrants in 37 states today.

Dairy market effect

With about 90 percent of ethnic Asians being lactose intolerant, this presents “a real challenge” for the consumption of dairy products, particularly fluid milk, Isige remarked. But this intolerance can be addressed in large part because specialty cheeses contain very little lactose, she explained.
The make-up of households is another drawback on the consumption of fluid milk, Isige observed. She noted that only 28 percent of households have children, that per capita milk consumption drops by 50 percent in childless households, that married couples account for only 48 percent of households, and that 28 percent of all households have one person.
Among both Hispanics and non-Hispanics, the popularity of Hispanic type foods continues to increase, Isige reported. She noted that consumption of Hispanic type cheeses grew by 9.2 percent in the last reporting year compared to a 2.3-percent increase for all cheeses.
Consumption of cheese tends to increase in households without children and by the elderly, Isige stated. On those points, Wisconsin's dairy sector is well situated because it produces 47 percent of the nation's specialty cheeses and because 90 percent of its cheese production is consumed outside of the state, she pointed out.

Economic concerns

On an indexed plane, household income continues to lag compared to what it was 15 years ago and only 50 percent of households are considered to be in the middle class today, Isige stated. Of the remainder, 21 percent are in the upper class and 29 percent in the lower class.
Those disparities are also reflected in food sales outlets with such examples as Sprouts Up catering to upper income households and Aldi to those with lowest income, Isige explained. With the same trends applying to the clothing, automobile, and hotel sectors, she said there is a squeeze on retailer sales to the middle class.
Regarding other trends in the food sector, Isige cited preferences for less processing, for transparency, for positive healthy traits instead of a concern about negatives, for clean or simple labeling, for premium items, and for “a local” aspect that's based on far more than geographic distance from the production site to the consumer's table.

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