America’s largest milk producer is struggling. Owner of familiar dairy brands Dairy Pure, Organic Valley, and Land O’Lakes, Dean Foods filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy this month to keep its business operating temporarily. The 94-year-old company blames the “accelerated decline in the conventional white milk category.”
According to CNN, annual sales of cow’s milk across the industry have plummeted $3 billion over the past four years. The market shift away from cow’s milk shows in Dean Foods’ bottom line—sales fell 7 percent in the first half of the year, while profits dropped 14. And the company’s stock lost 80 percent.
This year has been a particular struggle for the dairy industry. In Wisconsin, low milk prices are leading to bankruptcies, and dairy farmers are leaving the industry at a rate of three a day. Meanwhile, the market for plant-based milk around the world is projected to top $18 billion this year, a 3.5 percent jump from last year. Oat milk sales alone over the past year have grown by 636 percent to $52 million!
Dean Foods isn’t the only dairy company feeling the pressure of a changing market. Known as the “oldest dairy west of the Rockies,” Giacomazzi Dairy recently sold the last of its cows to focus on growing almonds. Dairy manager Dino Giacomazzi said in an interview:
Our facility is very old and inefficient to operate so we had to make a decision about investing in upgrading the facility and doubling the size of the milk cow herd or doing something else, and basically, we decided we were going to invest in our land and plant more almond trees and just continue farming without the cows.