It was hailed as one of dairy’s most successful innovations of recent times, but now 1% fat milk has suffered a dramatic slump in sales, losing nearly 20% in volume and 10% in value sales over the past year.

Total volume sales for 1% fat milk stood at 291.4 million litres at the end of 2011, down 17.4% from 352.9 million in 2010 [Kantar Worldpanel 52 w/e 25 December 2011]. Value sales declined by 10.1% over the same period, falling from £149.8m to £134.7m.

The decline in volumes means 1% fat milk now commands a 5.6% share of the UK liquid milk market, down from a 6.9% share in 2010.

The disappointing sales of 1% fat milk over the past 12 months come after a spectacular performance just a year earlier - between 2009 and 2010, volume sales increased by 73.2% and value sales by 51.4%.

Volume sales of 1% fat milk have suffered despite aggressive price cutting and multibuy promotions in the supermarkets. Over the past 12 months, four pints of own-label 1% fat milk have been sold for as little as 50p in the major supermarkets. In Tesco and Sainsbury’s, four-pint containers are currently being sold at £1.18 - the same as four pints of whole, skimmed or semi-skimmed milk []. Meanwhile, Asda is selling two-litre cartons of Arla-branded 1% fat milk for 87p.

1% fat milk was previously hailed as an important innovation in the fight against obesity. In 2010, the FSA published research suggesting most consumers who regularly buy semi-skimmed milk would be happy to switch to 1% fat milk, which contains about half the saturated fat of semi-skimmed.

“We tend to use milk on a daily basis, so this step will make a big contribution to reducing our saturated fat,” said FSA head of nutrition Clair Baynton at the time.