Canadian Athlete Perceptions of Milk

of six

Canadian Athlete Perceptions of Milk

While some Canadian and American athletes include milk as a part of their diet, others have sworn off cow milk.

Positive Canadian Perception

  • Nanci Guest is a dietitian who has consulted with Canadian Olympians including the women's hockey team, and she recommends milk as part of the diet of athletes.
  • In the Canadian fitness magazine Chatelain, dietitian Tristaca Caldwell-Curley published a meal plan for endurance athletes that includes several servings of milk.

Negative Canadian Perception

  • Kara Lang, a Canadian soccer player who has competed in the Olympics and two World Cups, has joined Switch4Good's coalition of athletes who speak out against milk and dairy products.
  • Canadian marathon runner Brendan Brazier has also joined Switch4Good and has refrained from drinking cow milk since he was 15 years old.
  • Several top Canadian athletes have gone vegan, including triathlete Madi Serpcio Whalen, runner Adriana Wild, and snowboarder Kevin Hill.

Positive American Perception

  • Thirty American Olympians and many other American athletes are sponsored by the Milk Life campaign, meaning that they are featured in advertisements endorsing milk and its health benefits.
  • A survey of runners participating in the Rock 'N' Roll Marathons found that 44% of athletes consume chocolate milk as a part of their post-exercise routine, and 83% of athletes made a connection between chocolate milk and post-exercise recovery.
  • Muscle milk, a high-protein meal replacement, sponsors several athletes including Julie Ertz and Ryan Hall, who have thus advocated for the product.

Negative American Perception

  • Like Canadian athletes Kara Lang and Brendan Brazier, several American athletes including Chris Manderino have joined the Switch4Good campaign to encourage people to turn away from cow milk.
  • Tom Brady, despite having been endorsed by the Milk Life campaign earlier in his career, now avoids cow milk in his diet.
  • Several NBA and NFL players have cut out dairy from their diets, and credit this change with higher energy levels, less pain, and longer endurance.

Research Strategy

As limited information existed on Canadian athletes' perception of milk, to complete this request your research team expanded the criteria to include North American athletes. However, we first employed three strategies to search for Canadian athlete perceptions.

First, we looked for a direct answer by examining Canadian fitness magazines, academic articles, and milk marketing publications. This search led us to two athletes' perceptions of milk but failed to give us a comprehensive view. Next, we identified Facebook pages and blogs by Canadian athletes like Rosanna Tomiuk, Paula Findlay, Joshua Riker-Fox, and more. Despite searching dozens of pages, this strategy failed to result in any relevant additional information.

We also identified top milk brands in Canada, like Lactantia, Beatrice, Agropur, and more, and attempted to triangulate a response by connecting these milk brands with athletes' endorsement or rejection. However, this search failed to result in any clear cut endorsement or rejection of various milk brands by Canadian athletes.

Finally, we attempted to triangulate an answer by examining the perceptions of dietitians and trainers. Our assumption was that dietitians and trainers that consulted with Canadian teams or athletes likely had a major influence over whether Canadian athletes were drinking milk or not. Similarly, athletes were likely to base their perceptions about what was healthy for them on the recommendations of their dietitians and trainers. This strategy led us to a few more first-hand perceptions of milk, but ultimately our research findings were still limited. So, we expanded our search criteria to North America. By employing the same strategies as aforementioned with a North American scope, we were able to gather more comprehensive data on athletes' perceptions of milk.

of six

Milk Drinkers in Canada: Demographics

While there was no publicly available information on the demographics of milk-drinkers in Canada, we have used the available data to compile some helpful insights. Our research revealed that Milk consumption has not been following population increases in Canada.

Helpful Findings

  • Milk consumption has not been following population increases Canada.
  • The result of a study did show higher composite strength increases in adolescent athletes drinking chocolate milk versus a carbohydrate supplement.
  • Another study in North Carolina showed, "conjoint importance scores of all fluid milk consumers showed that milk fat content was the most important attribute, followed by flavor, package size, and price."
  • According to Statistic Canada, over 45% of children and teenagers younger than 19 and over 25% among adults aged 19 and older, depends on milk for vitamin D.
  • Among children aged 1 to 8, milk provided around 20% of saturated fats and proteins consumed in a day.
  • Also, milk and flavored milk provided 51.7g of nutrients to male consumers from 19 to 50 years old.
  • Meanwhile, milk and flavored milk provided 41.0g of nutrients to female consumers from 19 to 50 years old.
  • Milk and flavored milk provided just 24.2g of nutrients to consumers from 50 to 70 years old.

Research Strategy

To provide the demographic profile of the average Canadian milk-drinker, we searched for precompiled information about average age, marital status, education level, income level, and ethnicity of Canadian milk-drinkers through media sites such as Heretohelp, CBC, BBC, and The Globe mail, among others. We hoped to find articles with precompiled information on demographic data of milk drinkers. Unfortunately, the information was not found precompiled. What we found was information on consumption behaviors around milk in Canada, but none specifically addressed demographics such as average age, marital status, education level, income level, and ethnicity.
Next, we tried to find the consumption statistics of milk in Canada by age marital status, education level, income level, and ethnicity to triangulate those numbers and try to obtain percentages of preferences or consumption behaviors. We searched through consumer surveys or statistics databases in sites such as Statista and Statistic Canada. This search revealed some insight into consumer behaviors around milk in Canada, but the information was not focused on the demographics of consumers. What we found focused on other metrics such as consumption change through the years or milk production in Canada, which was not enough to meet the criteria for our research.

Finally, we searched for case studies by scouring specialized magazines, trusted media, or journals for the average age, marital status, education level, income level, and ethnicity of Canadian milk-drinkers. To gather some case studies, we searched through sites like the Agricultural Industry Market Information System" (AIMIS) database, and Dairyinfo, among others. However, this provided no insights into the Canadian milk-drinkers demographics. Instead, the information we found was focused on milk usage. After an exhaustive search through various credible sources, we concluded that the information on the demographic breakdown of milk-drinkers in Canada is not publicly available.
of six

Milk Drinkers in Canada: Psychographics

One of the hobbies of Canadian milk consumers is cooking, and around one-fourth of Canadian milk consumers have a habit of purchasing four-liter containers of the product over four times a month.

Canada Milk Consumers: Psychographics

A) Hobbies

  • According to a survey conducted by Maru/Blue and commissioned by Saputo, one of the hobbies of Canadian milk consumers is cooking. About 87% of Canadian milk consumers make meals with milk as one of the ingredients, while 40% of them consume and drink milk every day.

B) Interest

  • Canadian consumers are showing increasing concern about the origin and production methods of processing the foods they consume, including milk and dairy products.
  • Some Canadian milk consumers are aware of the quality of milk they are buying, and they connect this quality directly to the production method.
  • A growing concern for this group involves animal welfare. One group, the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) helps with this issue by providing a certification to ensure consumers are aware that products, such as milk, that have its program label abide by its farm animal welfare guidelines.
  • Canadian milk consumers exhibit their awareness by selecting milk products with the "100% Canadian Milk" symbol, which is an indication of quality milk products in Canada. It also alerts consumers of the product's origin. The logo, which displays a miniature blue cow, is promoted by the Canadian Quality Milk Program (CQM), a best management practice program, which stresses the importance of documentation and confirmation of how the milk was produced.
  • Around 93.85% of Canadian milk consumers are aware of the "100% Canadian Milk" symbol. The general belief among Canadian milk consumers is that the symbol is an indication of higher quality milk against other brands that is not bearing it.

C) Motivation for Drinking Milk

  • Canadian milk consumers have been using lower-fat dairy products and milk as substitutes for higher-fat milks during the past 35 years, which is indicative of improving health motivation in drinking and consuming healthier milk options.
  • As of 2010, overall fluid milk consumption by Canadian consumers has been diminishing for a while, and the group is turning to healthier skim and 1% milk as opposed high fat milks.

D) Purchasing Habits

  • According to a research report, nearly 25% of Canadian milk consumers said that they buy four-liter containers of the product over four times each month.

Research Strategy:

Our research began by exploring well-known trade organizations such as the Dairy Farmers of Canada, Food & Consumer Products of Canada; research database sources such as Research Gate, Taylor & Francis Online, and IFAMA, among others; and government sources such as Agriculture Canada, Agri-Food Canada, Canadian Dairy Commission, etc. We found a consumer report on Canada by Agriculture Canada and Agri-Food Canada, which provided some relevant data. However, as its publishing date is 2010, it is outdated. We also found research reports on dairy production and the Canadian dairy market, but nothing specific to psychographics or consumer behavior of Canadian milk-drinkers.

Afterward, we searched for data and statistics that we could use for triangulation by examining research and intelligence sources such as Mintel, Cargill, Canadian Mystery Shopper, Consumer Reports, Maru/Blue, etc.; media and trade media sources such as Bloomberg, CBC, BBC, The Globe Mail, and Food in Canada, among others; and press release sources such as Newswire, Business Wire, and PR Newswire, etc. Also, we explored statistics sources such as Statista and Statistics Canada, among others. We discovered data on the purchasing habits and motivations for drinking milk for Canadian consumers from a research report and also information on hobbies from a survey that provided by Saputo through Newswire Canada and also from Bloomberg. However, both articles were outdated. We also found a market research report by Mintel, which contained a psychographic profile of Canadian milk consumers, but it is behind a paywall. Nonetheless, we included a link to the paywalled report.

Next, we searched for the top milk brands in Canada, which we wanted to use for triangulation, and searched through government sources such as the website of the Canadian Dairy Information Center. Moreover, we checked trade organizations such as Dairy Farmers of Canada, in which we observed its news release section and latest annual report. We wanted to find milk brands or producers in Canada. Through this approach, we discovered some premier dairy producers in the Canada market, namely Agropur, Saputo, Parmalat, Natrel, Dairy Farmers of Canada, etc. We used SimilarWeb and Spyfu's research analytical tools to analyze the available data. However, there was not sufficient data on the website analysis tools on any consumer behaviors, or information about hobbies and interests. We only found statistics on the websites, and there was no data provided by the tools for audience interests.

Therefore, due to the lack of existing reports from industry sources and data for triangulation, we broadened our scope to include the information from 2010 and 2017.
of six

Milk-drinking and Exercising: Trends

A review of the information available did not yield any trends directly attributable, and impacting, on milk drinking and exercise/fitness. However, below are some useful insights derived from research into the effect of cow milk on post-exercise recovery and trends in beverage consumption related to exercise/fitness.


  • It is inconclusive whether cow milk has a positive effect on muscle recovery and performance during exercise.
  • However, the nutritional profile of cow milk may contribute to an increase in the serum amino acid concentration and aid in the repair process for damaged muscles.
  • Consuming milk post workout has been shown to lower the intake of energy and may lead to better "body composition changes" with exercise training.


  • The federal government changed the food groups from milk and milk products, meat and alternatives, grain products, and fruits and vegetables to fruits and vegetables, whole grains; and proteins in the new Food Guide.
  • Canadians are advised to consume more plant-based proteins and to make water their beverage of choice.
  • Greater emphasis is placed on food behavior and less on a strict adherence to portion sizes.



  • A holistic approach to health through diet management is being adopted by 70% of Canadians.
  • Increased awareness of the relationship between food and health has resulted in 76% of Canadians aiming for consumption of food that is healthy.
  • Food with a health claim will interest 45% of Canadians to try it.



  • Consumers are interested in the story behind their food and are moving out of comfort zones to embrace new food experiences.
  • Food consumption now have multiple "sense appeal."
  • At the personal level, escapes from the routine and stress of life is provided and memories are made from communal food experiences and food related social media posts.
  • Consumers are expecting environmental sustainability in both the product and its packaging.
  • Consumers are interested in how food consumption is connected to emotional and mental well-being.


  • Per capita consumption of dairy products in Canada has declined over the period 2015 to 2018.
  • In 2018 consumption per capita in Q1 was 16.43 kilograms, which rose slightly to 16.51 in Q2. In Q3, consumption stood at 15.81 kilograms and then rose to 17.20 in Q4.
  • This decline is apparent when the quarterly figures for 2018 are measured against that for 2015. Q1 consumption in 2018 was 1.38 kilograms fewer than the comparable period in 2015, for Q2 it was 1.29 kilograms less, the figure for Q3 was 1.41 kilograms and in Q4 2018 Canadians drank 1.35 kilograms fewer than in 2015.


  • Nielsen reports that 43% of Canadians are "actively trying" to add more plant-based foods into their diet.
  • This is manifested in the meat and dairy alternatives category of fast moving consumer goods in Canada growing by $31 million with consumption growth of 14%.
  • Factors accounting for this change include individual health, changing tastes and concerns for the environment and animal welfare.
  • Plant-based foods are being incorporated by 85% of Canadians as a measure to improve overall health, while 23% is doing so in response to health concerns or a specific diagnosis.
  • Protecting the environment is the reason for 21% of Canadians trying to add more plant-based foods to their diet and 20% is using this as a measure to save money.
  • Maintaining a clean diet is why 55% are making the switch and 56% is using this diet as a tool for weight management.


The parameters for determining trends related to milk-drinking and exercising/fitness were set at a trend being a change in behavior, which is evidenced over the past two years over multiple sources. Using these criteria a search was made initially for trends directly related to milk drinking and exercising/fitness. While this did not yield any information to directly satisfy the request, two studies were available addressing the impact of milk consumption on post-exercise recovery. The search was then widened to include trends in milk drinking and trends in exercising/fitness. Information available regarding trends in milk consumption was available however, it did not meet the recency requirement mentioned above. There was significant data on trends in exercising/fitness available. Unfortunately it yielded no information with the specificity required for milk drinking. The search was then broadened to trends in beverage consumption which ultimately provided the insights listed above.

of six

Canadian Athlete Perceptions of Milk: Case Studies (1)

After a rigorous search for studies of Canadian athletes, as well as personal blogs or interviews of Canadian athletes, there is limited information on the opinions of Canadian athletes on milk consumption with details on how milk-drinking has helped them. However, below are some insights from Canadian studies and reports on the benefits of milk consumption by athletes, as well as information on some Canadian athletes' preference for non-dairy milk.


  • Milk consumption has declined since 2009, according to Statistics Canada, while the popularity of plant-based milk-alternatives has grown. In 2019, Canada has released a new food guide which does not include dairy.
  • An article on Sports Nutrition by Dietitians of Canada that is based on Canada's new Food Guide recommends that athletes consume lower fat milk products.


  • Drinking milk post-exercise can boost muscle fuel resynthesis, muscle recovery, and adaptation, as well as fluid recovery. Milk has potential anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative effects for an athlete's training.
  • Milk consumption enriches an athlete's diet because it contains protein which helps in enhancing performance, leaning out, and staying healthy during training, as well as naturally occurring carbohydrates, which are the healthiest source of sugar for athletes.
  • A study published by the Canadian Nutrition Society in 2019 looked at the effect of skim milk versus sports drink as a post-exercise recovery beverage. It concluded that consuming skim milk after an exercise session increases subsequent postprandial fat oxidation and reduces blood glucose concentration, compared to consuming a sports drink after the same exercise session, which negates exercise-induced beneficial effects on triglyceride levels.


  • Low-fat chocolate milk is considered an effective recovery drink since it contains carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and electrolytes. According to some studies, "chocolate milk is a slightly more effective recovery aid in endurance athletes."
  • A study on the benefits of chocolate milk for athletes showed that it "lengthened time to exhaustion, and improved perceived exertion, heart rate or levels of lactic acid in the blood at least as much as other beverages," an even appeared better than alternative drinks, in some instances. Compared to people who consumed placebo drinks, lactic acid levels, which indicate exertion, were lower for those that drank chocolate milk.


  • The number of professional athletes who are also vegan has increased slowly and steadily over the years.
  • According to the rugby player, Anthony Mullally of the Toronto Wolfpack, he has some oats with hemp milk or oat milk for breakfast. His transition to veganism happened gradually over a period of two years.
  • Shanda Hill is a vegan who stopped consuming dairy when she began serious training for triathlons in 2010. "Shanda is one of six women in the world to complete the grueling Deca ultra triathlon continuous in Switzerland and in 2017 set a world record for females by taking on two deca races in a single year."


We started by looking for precompiled examples of case studies of Canadian athletes that have spoken out about milk-drinking. During our search, we found a news article on an initiative by the Dairy Farmers of Canada, which had elite athletes promoting milk consumption. We found that this 2019 campaign has Olympic medalists such as curler Jennifer Jones and bobsledder Kaillie Humphries onboard. However, since it is a campaign to promote a brand, we cannot consider the information credible.

We also found that Canada has dropped dairy from its healthy eating guide as well as an article based on the new guide that recommends lower fat milk products to athletes.

There was another campaign by the Dairy Farmers of Ontario called 'Recharge With Milk,' which had several Canadian athletes as its Brand Ambassadors. These athletes spoke about their milk consumption, but since they spoke as Ambassadors for the brand, and not on their own, we cannot consider this information credible.

Our next approach was to look for research papers and studies related to the health and diets of athletes, hoping to triangulate the information on how milk plays a role. First, we kept the focus on Canadian studies. During this search, we found a research brief titled 'The Role of Milk in Physical Activity' that cited several research studies on the benefits of milk for sportspersons and athletes. However, all these studies were more than a decade old.

We also found an official document titled 'Nutrition and Athletic Performance,' which had the positions of Dietitians of Canada on these issues. However, this document was from 2016, and as we had seen, there have been significant changes in the Canadian healthy eating guide in 2019. There was also a report by the Canadian Nutrition Society on the benefits of milk consumption for athletes, but no information Canadian athletes that have spoken out about milk-drinking.

Upon expanding the scope from Canada to include sources from North America, we found a useful and recent article by Lisi Bratcher, who teaches Exercise Physiology and Health & Physical Education classes at the University of Alabama on the benefits of milk for athletes. We also found a study on the benefits of chocolate milk for athletes. However, we did not find any relevant information using this approach.

We then decided to look for general diet information shared by Canadian athletes in their personal blogs or interviews to see if any of them mentioned anything about dairy or milk. We decided to also look for information on non-dairy milk alternatives like soy milk, and found some helpful information on the opinions of some Canadian athletes on milk. However, we did not find any relevant or helpful sources about Canadian athletes talking about their diet, and specifically, milk.

of six

Canadian Athlete Perceptions of Milk: Case Studies (2)

Examples of Canadian athletes that have publicly stated they do not drink dairy milk are Meagan Duhamel, Kara Lang, and Brendan Brazier.



  • Kara Lang represented Canada at two FIFA World Cups and Olympic games.
  • Lang identifies that her switch from dairy was beneficial noting, "I did it for my athletic performance. And it worked."
  • Lang warns other athletes on the danger of milk. She states, "As an athlete and a mom, I feel the need to share what I've learned and experienced firsthand about the dangers of dairy products."


Did this report spark your curiosity?


From Part 04