Upgrade your browser - Unfortunately, this site has updated features that can't run on this version of Internet Explorer. Download a free upgrade of Internet Explorer.

Industry Trends 2024

Food and nutrition topics likely to impact the Dairy Community in the next 1 to 3 years.

  • 10 Minute Read  

Authors: Megan Holdaway, RDN; Bessie O’Connor, RDN

Contributors: Ashley Rosales, RDN; Kristal Mylander, MPH, RDN; Tammy Anderson-Wise

Reviewers: Michael Dimock, MA; Lesley Kroupa, JD, MS, RDN; Vance Ahlem

Trend Video Recaps

Watch a short summary of each trend



Your Opinion Matters: 2024 Trends Survey

Thank you for reading Dairy Council of California's 2024 Trends for the Dairy Community. We appreciate your time to share your thoughts about the publication. Please take a few minutes to complete this online survey.

Complete the survey here.


Health, nutrition and food environments are continually shaped by complex factors that require forethought and oversight and provide growth opportunities for the dairy community. Currently, many industries are grappling with the challenges and potential of artificial intelligence (AI) as technological advances and public awareness of its use across sectors increase. As AI tools continue to evolve and change the spaces where people learn, work and live, it’s important to ensure people have access to credible, accurate and up-to-date information, especially about health and nutrition. This Trends report highlights the potential challenges and growth opportunities for the dairy industry in the areas of shifting age demographics, growing momentum for sustainable diets, personalized approaches to address diet-related chronic diseases and greater acceptance of whole dairy foods.



Jump Ahead







Changing age demographics across California and the United States are creating societal shifts with lasting impacts. 


The average age of the population of California continues to shift, with recent data showing that the number of births in California declined 26% between 2007 and 2021.1 At the same time, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that the number of people age 65 and older will reach 80.8 million by 2040 (up from 54.1 million in 2019), and the 85 and older population is projected to more than double to 14.4 million by 2040 (up from 6.6 million in 2019).The societal impacts of demographic shifts due to declining birth rates and an increasing number of older adults will include changes in family dynamics. The impacts are not fully realized, making demographics an important consideration across multiple environments. 

In the education environment, enrollment continues to decline in certain parts of the United States. Data shows that 12% of elementary schools and 9% of middle schools throughout the country lost at least one-fifth of their enrollment over a four-year period. Due in part to its size, but also to population shifts, California has the largest number of schools where enrollment loss hit at least 20%, particularly in areas where the housing market is limited and birth rates are low.2 The California State University system has experienced a 6.5% drop in the number of new enrollments since 2019, 3 while enrollment in vocational programs continues to rise.4  Declining K-12 enrollment will impact all facets of the school environment, from funding and school closures to food procurement and class sizes. 

IndustryTrend2024_Trend1_Infographic1A smaller student population will also have repercussions for the workforce, including fewer people entering the workforce. When combined with more people working into their 60s and 70s than previous generations, this reality is changing the workforce and leading to impacts that will be felt for decades to come.5 An older workforce could lead to higher labor costs such as salaries, health insurance and other benefits, while companies may need to rethink benefits packages to hire and retain staff.6 Older employees in some industries fear ageism as they worry about being pushed out of their positions before choosing to leave.7 To effectively meet the needs of an aging population, several states, including California, are creating a multisector plan for aging to enable them to respond to challenges and opportunities.8 

Companies are evolving to meet the needs of a changing population, shifting toward the health and nutrition needs of older adults. For example, one multinational corporation is pivoting from a foundational product, baby formula, to create products that appeal to older adults, including protein drinks and foods that support heart health.9 A growing number of older adults seek products to improve their health and address specific conditions, including dietary supplements and probiotic-rich foods such as kimchi, kombucha and yogurt.10 Yet external support for health is needed, as a large survey found that financial status is a key factor in an individual’s ability to adhere to behaviors related to taking care of their physical health. Older adults who report living comfortably are more likely than their peers to eat healthy foods and follow a balanced diet.11    














Momentum for sustainable diets continues to build, though consumer attitudes and behaviors show challenges to aligning choices with values.  

CDFA Farm to School ProgramSustainability is at the forefront of food conversations, with organizations and individuals striving to positively impact the planet through their food choices. Youth-led organizations successfully advocated for a climate-friendly menu at the 2023 United Nations climate change conference (COP28), where two-thirds of the estimated 250,000 meals served were vegan and vegetarian.12 School meals are also a commonly discussed vehicle for implementing sustainability practices in large institutional procurement settings. A recent white paper, published with support from 85 organizations worldwide, advocates for planet-friendly school meal programs and encourages governments to focus on policies that will benefit students and the planet and create more changes in the food industry.13 Additionally, the farm-to-school movement in California is growing, with California Department of Food and Agriculture awarding up to $52.8 million through its Farm to School Incubator Grant Program in 2024–2025; among other things, goals include increasing the availability of local foods in schools, increasing marketing opportunities for farmers and strengthening knowledge about California’s agricultural sector in children’s communities.14  

IndustryTrends2024_Trend2_ImageThese efforts at the state, national and global level will continue to shape perceptions of what it means to eat sustainably, as well as create environments that promote and prioritize sustainability. Survey findings show that 1 in 2 people consider adopting sustainable foods as more of a priority than saving money. However, personal behaviors without the support of policies, systems and environments are hard to change. American consumers in practice prioritize price and taste when buying food.15 Additionally, forty percent of consumers say that knowing a food or beverage is produced in a way that minimizes its carbon footprint/climate impact is an important factor in their purchasing decisions.16 Sustainability labeling is a growing area in need of guidelines to avoid consumer confusion and greenwashing.17 Increasingly, nutrition education will need to integrate the whole sustainable nutrition story to reduce barriers and disparities in access to foods that support environmental resiliency, health, culture and local economy.












Personalized nutrition approaches to diet-related chronic disease management have gained widespread acceptance, yet disparities remain between those with access to interventions and those without.


Nutrition’s impact on health is increasingly at the center of solutions to rising rates of obesity and chronic diseases at all life stages. The personalized nutrition market, which focuses on tailoring diet recommendations to individual needs based on factors such as genetics, lifestyle and health goals, is projected to reach a market valuation of $34.5 billion by 2030.18 Advancing technology and innovation, including AI, are helping to drive this growth. Personalized nutrition is the focus of a National Institutes of Health study called Nutrition for Precision Health, which will track 10,000 adults over five years to determine differences in how people metabolize and respond to various diets. The data will be used to develop algorithms that can give people personalized plans for their health.19 

IndustryTrends2024_Trend3_Image1While personalized nutrition approaches often focus on preventive health measures, the use of prescription medications to treat type 2 diabetes and obesity has skyrocketed in the past few years. States with the highest rates of type 2 diabetes and obesity saw the highest prescribing rates for these medications in 2023, though shortages, costs and insurance restrictions have made them harder to obtain.20 One maker of a popular medication created a direct-to-patient portal option to distribute its drug at a lower cost, seeking to eliminate barriers and increase access to its medication to better meet consumer demand.21 Some medications have the potential to positively impact individuals’ health but carry unintended consequences such as a dulling of the enjoyment people derive from food.22

IndustryTrend2024_Trend3_Infographic1The underlying factor in access to healthy food and nutrition support is a growing divide between those that can afford interventions and those who cannot. Cost of living in California is 46.8% higher than the national average, and the state has the highest rate of functional poverty, with over a quarter of its residents experiencing serious economic stress.23 Financial challenges are often correlated with lower rates of food security, which is linked to early death, and there are significant racial, ethnic and sex differences.24 In addition, 25% of Californians live in areas with a federally designated shortage of primary health care professionals, as well as other specialties. 25 Ensuring people have access to a variety of affordable, culturally relevant food remains key to elevating the health of people and communities.













Consumers embrace whole dairy foods ahead of dietary recommendations and federal nutrition programs.

IndustryTrend2024_Trend4_Infographic1 Consumption of whole dairy foods such as whole milk, cheese, yogurt and butter is on the rise due to shifting values and perception, dairy research and industry innovation.26,27 In 2022, Americans consumed an average of 42 pounds of cheese per year, up from 32 pounds per year in 2000.28 In response to these demands over the past five years, some dairy farmers have been shifting their herd type and crossbreeding Holstein and Jersey cows to increase butterfat production.29 Despite increased whole dairy food consumption, the 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends consuming fat-free or low-fat milk to limit intake of saturated fat, which continues to be identified as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. However, research validating the benefits of whole dairy foods on chronic disease risk is motivating consumers and health professionals to look beyond saturated fat and recognize the dairy food matrix, with its unique contributions to eating patterns and health.30 

Whole Milk for Healthy Kids ActTogether, research and growing consumer demand for whole dairy foods are catalyzing policy initiatives that could impact dietary guidance and federal nutrition programs. The Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act, which would allow whole milk to be served in school meals, was introduced and passed in the House of Representatives and has advanced to the Senate.31 Additionally, the 2025 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee is considering food pattern modeling that could potentially increase flexibility in dairy recommendations to include various fat levels.32 Lastly, in March 2024 the Food and Drug Administration officially approved certain qualified health claims suggesting eating yogurt of varying fat contents regularly, at least 2 cups per week, may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes according to limited scientific evidence.33 These developments signify a broader recognition of the nuanced role dairy fats play in a balanced diet, reflecting evolving scientific understanding that could have important public health implications. More flexibility in the foods consumers choose as part of their overall eating patterns supports alignment with preferences, cultural practices and lifestyle. 


















1. Maternity Care in California, 2023: Delivering the Data. California Health Care Foundation; 2023. Accessed May 6, 2024. https://www.chcf.org/publication/maternity-care-ca-2023-edition 


2. Jacobson L. The Sacramento Bee. Thousands of schools at risk of closing due to enrollment loss: An exclusive report. Updated March 4, 2024. Accessed March 5, 2024. https://www.sacbee.com/article286242745.html 


3. Lin D. Cal State University system deals with declining enrollment numbers. CBS News. Published February 23, 2024. Accessed March 5, 2024. https://www.cbsnews.com/sanfrancisco/news/cal-state-university-system-deals-with-declining-enrollment-numbers/ 


4. Cachero P. Surging college costs push students to vocational programs. Bloomberg website. Published January 24, 2024. Accessed May 6, 2024. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2024-01-24/rising-college-costs-enrollment-surges-at-vocational-training-programs 


5. Fry R, Braga D. The growth of the older workforce. Pew Research Center website. Published December 14, 2023. Accessed May 6, 2024. https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2023/12/14/the-growth-of-the-older-workforce     


6. Lynch Jr. O. America is getting older: how will an aging population impact employers? Career Town website. Published July 28, 2023. Accessed May 6, 2024. https://careertown.net/america-is-getting-older-how-will-an-aging-population-impact-employers/ 


7. Clinton M. The seismic shift that’s about to change the American workplace. Esquire website. Published February 13, 2024. Accessed May 6, 2024. https://www.esquire.com/news-politics/a46754477/american-workplace-change-older-employees  


8. Graham C, Hoffmaster A. The unexpected benefits of a state multisector plan for aging: lessons from California [brief]. Center for Health Care Strategies website. Published April 2022. Accessed May 6, 2024. https://www.chcs.org/resource/the-unexpected-benefits-of-a-state-masterplan-for-aging-lessons-from-california  


9. See in-text citation


10. Aging consumers shop for wellness. Morgan Stanley website. Published March 26, 2024. Accessed May 6, 2024. https://www.morganstanley.com/ideas/health-and-wellness-industry-older-consumer-growth 


11. Ahlawat H, Darcovich A, Dewhurst M, Feehan E, Hediger V, Maud M. Age is just a number: how older adults view healthy aging. McKinsey Health Institute website. Published May 22, 2023. Accessed May 6, 2024. https://www.mckinsey.com/mhi/our-insights/age-is-just-a-number-how-older-adults-view-healthy-aging 


12. Historic decision: two thirds of food served at COP28 will be vegan and vegetarian. A first for COP! ProVeg International website. Published October 25, 2023. Accessed May 6, 2024. https://proveg.org/press-release/historic-decision-two-thirds-of-food-served-at-cop28-will-be-vegan-and-vegetarian-a-first-for-cop 


13. Pastorino S, Springmann M, Backlund U, et al. School Meals and Food Systems: Rethinking the Consequences for Climate, Environment, Biodiversity, and Food Sovereignty [discussion paper]. London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine; 2023. doi:10.17037/PUBS.04671492 


14. 2023-24 California Farm to School Grant Program now accepting applications. Morrison & Company Consulting, Inc website. Published February 15, 2024. Accessed May 6, 2024. https://morrisonco.net/blog/2023-24-california-farm-to-school-grant-program  


15. Sodexo and Harris introduce action-oriented international sustainable food barometer. Sodexo website. Published January 16, 2024. Accessed May 6, 2024. https://us.sodexo.com/media/news-releases/sustainable-food-barometer.html 


16. 2023 Food and Health Survey. International Food Information Council; 2023. Accessed May 6, 2024. https://foodinsight.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/IFIC-2023-Food-Health-Report.pdf   


17. Food product labeling: challenges of defining sustainability. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (The National Academies) webinar. October 12, 2023. Accessed May 6, 2024. https://www.nationalacademies.org/event/40313_10-2023_food-product-labeling-challenges-of-defining-sustainability 


18. Personalized nutrition market projected to reach USD 34.5 billion by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 15.77% during the forecast period of 2023-2030: a comprehensive study by MarketDigits. Yahoo Finance website. Published January 24, 2024. Accessed May 6, 2024. https://finance.yahoo.com/news/personalized-nutrition-market-projected-reach-113000248.html  


19. O’Connor A. What’s the best diet for your body? A federal study aims to find out. The Washington Post website. Published October 24, 2023. Accessed May 6, 2024. https://www.washingtonpost.com/wellness/2023/10/24/what-is-the-best-diet-nih-study  


20. See in-text citation


21. Doheny K. Eli Lilly offers obesity drug directly to consumers. Medscape website. Published January 5, 2024. Accessed May 6, 2024.  https://www.medscape.com/s/viewarticle/eli-lilly-offers-obesity-drug-directly-consumers-2024a10000fl  


22. See in-text citation


23. Walters D. High living costs solidify California’s two-tier economy. Cal Matters website. Published April 23, 2023. Accessed May 6, 2024. https://calmatters.org/commentary/2023/04/california-two-tier-economy  


24. Ma H, Wang X, Li X, et al. Food insecurity and premature mortality and life expectancy in the US. JAMA Intern Med. 2024;184(3):301-310. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2023.7968


25. Bridging the care gap: addressing California’s health care workforce needs. California Health Care Foundation website. Accessed May 6, 2024. https://www.chcf.org/resource/bridging-the-care-gap 


26. O’Leary F. Full-fat dairy is back in style. Farm Progress website. Published November 20, 2023. Accessed May 6, 2024. https://www.farmprogress.com/livestock-and-dairy/full-fat-dairy-is-back-in-style 


27. Bjerga A. Whole and lactose-free milk shine bright. Hoard’s Dairyman website. Published January 18, 2024. Accessed May 6, 2024. https://hoards.com/article-34615-whole-and-lactose-free-milk-shine-bright.html 


28. You cheddar believe it! America’s love affair with dairy continues as cheese consumption hits all-time high in 2022. California Dairy website. Published January 18, 2023. Accessed May 6, 2024. https://californiadairymagazine.com/2023/12/18/you-cheddar-believe-it-americas-love-affair-with-dairy-continues-as-cheese-consumption-hits-all-time-high-in-2022 


29. Maltais K. More cheese please: farmers are squeezing cows for fattier milk. The Wall Street Journal website. Published January 13, 2024. Accessed May 6, 2024. https://www.wsj.com/business/more-cheese-please-farmers-are-squeezing-cows-for-fattier-milk-36f1cbb0 


30. Pokala A, Kraft J, Taormina VM, et al. Whole milk dairy foods and cardiometabolic health: dairy fat and beyond. Nutr Res. 2024;126:99-122. doi:10.1016/j.nutres.2024.03.010


31. Sheffield S. Interpretive summary: House passed Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act. American Society of Animal Science website. Published February 1, 2024. Accessed May 6, 2024. https://www.asas.org/taking-stock/blog-post/taking-stock/2024/02/01/interpretive-summary-house-passed-whole-milk-for-healthy-kids-act 


32. Hess JM, Cifelli CJ, Fulgoni VL 3rd. Modeling the impact of fat flexibility with dairy food servings in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans Healthy U.S.-Style Eating Pattern. Front Nutr. 2020;7:595880. doi:10.3389/fnut.2020.595880 


33. FDA announces qualified health claim for yogurt and reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. US Food & Drug Administration website. Published March 1, 2024. Accessed May 6, 2024. https://www.fda.gov/food/cfsan-constituent-updates/fda-announces-qualified-health-claim-yogurt-and-reduced-risk-type-2-diabetes 








Icon of arrow pointing out a call to action.

Interested in past trends?

Read previous issues of Trends related to food and nutrition.