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Why milk matters: Fans of the drink respond

In a new survey, half cite health reasons for drinking it down, but even more say it's because they just plain like it. Phil Lempert has the skinny.

A new study — "Changes in U.S. Milk Consumption/New Milk Products" conducted by the marketing firm BuzzBack Market Research in conjunction with Dairy Management Inc. (a consortium consisting of the American Dairy Association, National Dairy Council and U.S. Dairy Export Council) and Dairy Foods Magazine — reveals that while dollar sales may not have yet skyrocketed, to borrow a phrase from Bob Dylan, "The times, they are a-changin'."

The survey shows two thirds of respondents drink milk at least three times a week, with 42 percent consuming the product at least once a day. Interestingly, milk seems to be a passion-driven product: You either love it, or hate it. Very few respondents to the survey consider themselves "occasional milk drinkers." And given the aforementioned consumption rates, milk lovers would seem to have it all over milk haters.

Over 50 percent of respondents say they choose to drink milk because of the calcium, protein, vitamin A, fat content, potassium and vitamin D offered therein. And over 50 percent say they choose the product because it simply tastes good.

While there are no significant differences between women and men regarding their frequency rate of milk consumption, women favor milk by a wide margin for its calcium content (78 percent vs. 68 percent of all men surveyed), while 18 percent of women say they drink milk as an aid in weight reduction compared to just nine percent of men surveyed. And interestingly, women are 10 percent more likely than men to choose milk as a beverage option simply because they like its taste.

Another interesting finding is that older milk consumers often are aware of the health benefits, but that health isn't the only factor driving consumption. Indeed, among respondents age 55 or older, 78 percent select milk because it tastes good, while 77 percent cited health reasons for choosing the beverage. Calcium and vitamin D are the two primary health benefits, according to the study.

The study is an important breakthrough in the analysis of milk consumption in the U.S. because it goes beyond sheer numbers to incorporate consumers' emotional responses to the product.

Phil Lempert is food editor of the “Today” show. He welcomes questions and comments, which can be sent to or by using the mail box below. For more about the latest trends on the supermarket shelves, visit Phil’s Web site at