Hope for “Taller Thais” dims! Milk drinking promotion falls short of target


The typical Thai person is not very tall, and Thailand wants taller citizen, with a campaign for the Thais to drink milk. But Thailand’s diary market, much of that milk, is forecast to fall.

The Thai dairy market had total revenues of $1.6bn in 2012, representing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.3% between 2008 and 2012 (Source). Market consumption volumes increased with a CAGR of 0.3% between 2008-2012, to reach a total of 264.2 million kg in 2012. The performance of the market is forecast to decelerate, with an anticipated CAGR of 2.9% for the five-year period 2012 – 2017, which is expected to drive the market to a value of $1.9bn by the end of 2017.

Thais currently consume 14 litres of milk per head annually, far below the south-east Asian average of 60 litres, and the international average of 103.9 litres. A greater problem for Thailand may be the drink that Thais like too much: the average citizen consumes three times as much alcohol as milk, figures from the health ministry show, or about 14.19 litres of milk to 44 litres of alcohol per person per year.

Lactose intolerance is common among many Thais, however, and much of the milk currently sold in Thailand comes in cans as sweetened condensed milk, ubiquitously served in Thai coffees and teas. Those looking for a small carton of milk in shops can be met with raised eyebrows as it is generally regarded as a drink for weaklings, with the word for milk and breast, nom, being interchangeable.

According to local press, Thailand is asking citizens of all ages to drink at least one glass of cow’s milk a day in an effort to increase their average height by up to 8cm within the next decade. According to a Thai campaign to drink milk every day, could increase the height of 18-year-old Thais by 8cm from the current 167cm for boys and 157cm for girls, as well as extend life expectancy from 74 to 80 years.

The press reports, the drink milk campaign, comes alongside a larger campaign to encourage women to breastfeed their children for longer, ensuring babies are given breast milk – not infant formula or other substitutes – for their first six months before moving them on to two or three glasses of cow’s milk during pre-school. Those already in school would be encouraged to drink two glasses a day, and adults one, according to the head of Thailand’s health department, Jessada Chokdamrongsuk.

A nationwide school milk programme was likely to catch on, said the Thai culture commentator Kaewmala: “Parents want their children to be tall … and this has a lot to do with better quality and quantity of diet and certainly milk consumption”.

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