Milk is the product of the complete and uninterrupted milking of a healthy, well fed and not fatigued animal of a dairy female. It must be collected in a hygienic way and must not contain colostrum. Certified farm quality milk is obtained from cows belonging to pure breeds and registered in the appropriate herd book, reared on dairy farms that hold a cattle health certificate or certificate. In addition to liquid milk, powdered milk (which is dehydrated milk, ie the whole water has been removed) is marketed, evaporated (which has been partially removed from the water, usually 60 -in order to increase its shelf-life-) and condensed (whole or partially skimmed, vacuum-heated until three quarters of water has been added and a large quantity of sugar has been added). It is kept hermetically packaged to keep it edible for a long time and is taken by mixing a small proportion with water or mixed with other beverages such as coffee.



Cow milk with almost 7 million tonnes constitutes 89.9% of the total, followed by sheep’s milk (5.3%) and goat’s milk (4.8%) at a great distance. Consumer milk is around 3.5 million tonnes, of which 84.8% is UHT milk, 10.9% is sterilized milk and the remaining 4.3% is composed of pasteurized milk. Semi-skimmed milk constitutes 40% of the total supply. Then the whole milk (39%) and the skim milk (21%) are placed. Production of about 34,000 tonnes of concentrated milk and 13,200 tonnes of milk powder, which is almost entirely skimmed, can also be cited.


The domestic market for milk and vegetable beverages shows a clear predominance of sales of classic milk presentations, accounting for 75.2% of the total in volume and 66.1% in value. Milk with calcium (9.6% by volume and 11.4% by value), vegetable beverages (4.3% and 6.9%), lactose-free milks (4.5% and 6% , 1%), heart milks (3.1% and 4.8%), fresh milks (1.3% and 1.6%) and growth milks (1% and 1.5%). The remaining offers represent the remaining 1% in volume and 1.4% in value. In general terms, there is a decrease in milk demand, with the exception of lactose-free presentations, with year-on-year growth of 26.1% in volume and 16.3% in value, and of vegetable milk.

Business structure

The base of the business sector liquid milk has a significant atomization and is composed of about 600 companies that buy milk from livestock farmers. Within these companies, 2% collects about 46% of all milk produced in our country. There are also more than 200 cooperatives and dairy producers organizations, of which only about 70 have more than 50 farmers. The companies that handle the milk collection are about 610, but the five most important monopolize a joint share of 43% of the total. Distribution brands are absolutely hegemonic in the milk market and control 60.7% of total sales in volume, while the first Marquist offer reaches 12.3%, the second round 9.9% and the Third stays at 9.9%. In the case of brik milk, the most popular presentation in the large distribution, this importance is even greater, with a share of 67.8% of the total for white brands, while the first offer with manufacturer brand is situated In 7.2%, the second in 6.4% and the third in only 2.5%. The main producer of liquid milk in our country has a production of 620 million liters, while the second (specialized in distribution brands) is 610 million liters and the third exceeds 590 million liters. Behind these, two other groups appear with production figures between 455 and 415 million liters. The first operator in the Spanish market is the subsidiary of a large multinational dairy company of French origin. It has a total workforce of 38,000 workers. The second and third have their origins in old cooperatives of cattle farmers of Navarre, Basque Country and Asturias.

Foreign trade

The milk quota allocated to our country in 1986, which was abolished in April 2015, was clearly insufficient to meet domestic demand, and milk imports have been an indispensable resource during the last thirty years. In 2014, 264,770 tonnes of cow’s milk in bulk were imported, for a value close to 93.2 million euros. In addition, 153,850 tonnes of cow’s milk in containers were imported, with a market value of 77.7 million euros. All these items came from other European Union countries, led by France. Portugal and Germany are quite close at hand. Much less important are imports of sheep’s milk and other milk in small containers, also from Europe, with 1,290 tonnes and 1.7 million euros. Imports of bulk milk recorded year-on-year declines of 19.1% in volume and 4.9% in value, while in the case of packaged milks there was a slight increase of 1% in volume and a larger increase of 7% , 1% in value. Spanish exports of cow’s milk in bulk exceeded 68,880 tonnes, 3.6% more than in the previous year, for a value of more than 57.4 million euros, which was a significant increase of 17.6% . In addition, 48,450 tonnes of packaged cow’s milk were exported, worth 27.7 million euros. In this case, there was a year-on-year decrease of 7.7% in volume and a 6.5% increase in value. In the latter case, intra-Community trade is not practically exclusive, as 21.6% of these sales are made in non-EU countries. Spanish exports of sheep’s milk reached 2,400 tonnes and 8.4 million euros.

About the author

Montse Gonzalez