Adults Spend More on the Dairy Aisle

Whether looking for new products, impulse buying or seeking meal inspiration, nearly 2 in 3 U.S. adults (65%) say they often purchase unplanned items in the dairy aisle, according to a recent survey by the National Frozen and Refrigerated Foods Association (NFRA). This tendency is even higher among Gen Z and millennials (74% each).

More than 2,000 consumers were surveyed, providing insight into U.S. adult consumers’ dairy aisle attitudes and behaviors related to health benefits, inclusion of dairy alternatives, premium brand propensities and more.

Keep reading more trends because June is National Dairy Month.

Related Article: IDFA Releases New Ice Cream Trends

Health Benefits and Dairy Aisle Delights

Regarding health benefits, options from the dairy aisle stand out alongside veggies, fruits and lean meats. Survey results show that eggs (74%), yogurt (67%) and cheese (63%) are top choices for health-conscious consumers due to their macronutrient and protein content. Over half of U.S. adults (52%) say both macronutrients and calories are equally important when checking nutrition labels, with 81% agreeing that dairy products like yogurt or cottage cheese provide an easy high-protein breakfast.

“Consumers are increasingly focusing on nutrition and the diverse options in the dairy aisle, ensuring that meals cooked at home are not only delicious but also packed with health benefits,” says Tricia Greyshock, NFRA’s president and CEO. “Innovative products, including a growing range of dairy alternatives, continue to enhance the choices available to families, making it easier than ever to enjoy nutritious and varied meals.”

As with conventional products from the dairy aisle, U.S. consumers view dairy alternatives as healthy too. Nearly 3 in 5 U.S. adults (57%) describe dairy alternatives, such as almond milk or oat milk, as “healthy.” This view increases with Gen Z adults (65%) and millennials (61%). But what’s important to note is that it’s not one or the other. Some consumers have flexed to new shopping and food consumption habits.

Adopting a flexitarian approach to dairy consumption appears to be a common practice for many adults, who frequently purchase both traditional dairy products and alternatives, like almond and soy milk. This trend is particularly strong among Gen Z and millennials, with 71% and 72% respectively engaging in this behavior.

Flexitarianism, a diet primarily consisting of plant-based foods while allowing for the occasional inclusion of animal products, is gaining popularity. During the same trip to the grocery store, 61% of U.S. adults say they often purchase dairy and dairy alternatives together.

Parents exhibit similar behavior, with 70% of those with children living in their household—most of whom are millennials—reporting the same pattern. This shift is likely shaped by the availability of diverse dairy alternatives and the evolving shopping habits of younger generations as they assume the role of primary shoppers for their households.

A Preference for Premium Brands

Survey findings illustrate a notable trend in consumers’ tendency to seek out brand-name and premium brands, particularly regarding yogurt, cheese, and butter. Nearly half of U.S. adults (45%) prefer brand-name yogurt, while 39% do the same for cheese and butter. Furthermore, 40% of consumers often opt for premium brand yogurt, with cheese (37%) and butter (34%) following closely.

Shopping the dairy aisle – whether in-store or digitally for pick-up or home delivery – offers a wide array of options for great meals and other treats at home.