Although liquid milk retail prices have risen by more than 20% since December 2006, UK shoppers still have a healthy appetite for the white stuff.

The total volume of liquid milk sales rose 2.3% last year, according to TNS Worldpanel, while total expenditure in 2007 soared 8% to nearly £2.8bn.

Pasteurised milk still dominates the market with an 89% share of volume and 87% of expenditure. In this category, with the average retail price rising 6.2% between December 2006 and December 2007, whole milk sales volumes dipped 1.7% during the year. Semi-skimmed volumes were up 3.7% and skimmed was up 2%. Semi-skimmed now has a volume market share of 64%, while skimmed has 11%.

Filtered milks, such as Cravendale, accounted for the biggest growth in 2007, with volume up 22% and a market share of 5%. However, modified milks, which have added ingredients such as additives or vitamins, suffered badly last year, dropping one third in volume. Soya-based products are still niche products with less than a 2% market share, while organic volumes have risen by 3%.

Doorstep sales are still shrinking with an average delivered retail price of 50p per pint, two thirds of which goes towards the service.

Last November, when the lowest milk output was recorded, average daily liquid milk requirements of 183 million litres were backed by average daily milk production of 343 million litres. This created a safety margin of 47%. This may offer some comfort to those worried about the decline in UK milk production and the risk this may pose for meeting the liquid milk requirements of the UK market.

Mike Bessey