According to Rabobank, the combined turnover of the top 20 dairy companies on the list jumped by 21% in euro terms since last year, as a result of inflation, a stronger US dollar and tight market conditions. In US dollar terms, the combined turnover was up 7.4%.
Just five companies, including market leader Lactalis, have held on to their positions since last year, as a result of significant merger and acquisition activity in the dairy sector, with almost 25 deals taking place.
Commenting on the findings, report authors Mary Ledman and Richard Scheper said, "Looking ahead, we expect weakening dairy and retail prices will make 2023 a challenging year in terms of profitability for some companies in the ranking. Farmgate milk prices remain relatively high in some regions, which squeezed margins in 1H 2023.
"In terms of turnover, we expect more muted growth in 2023, with some companies unlikely to match the double-digit percentage revenue gains they experienced in 2022."
Here's an overview of the top twenty dairy companies in the world, according to their most recently-available full-year turnover.
Top 20 Dairy Companies In The World
1. Lactalis (France) - €27.2 Billion*
Lactalis, based in France, is the undisputed leader in the global dairy industry, with a turnover of €27.2 billion in 2022.
Lactalis first passed the €20 billion mark in 2020, Rabobank said, and its growth since has been boosted by acquisitions, such as Jalna Dairy Foods, BMI's fresh dairy division in Germany, and France's Verdannet.
2. Dairy Farmers of America (USA) - €23.3 Billion
In second place, Dairy Farmers of America, a cooperative based in the United States, reported a turnover of €23.3 billion in 2023.
The group has jumped two positions as a result of its solid performance, which was boosted by elevated prices and organic growth, according to Rabobank.
3. Nestlé (Switzerland) - €22.1 Billion*
Switzerland's Nestlé, a household name in the food and beverage industry, comes in third place with a turnover of €22.1 billion. It drops one place in the rankings since last year.
Nestlé recently beat first-half sales expectations, reporting a 8.7% organic sales increase.
4. Danone (France) - €20.1 Billion*
Danone secures fourth position with a turnover of €20.1 billion, although it has seen a drop since last year. Danone's dairy portfolio includes well-known brands such as Activia, Actimel, and Oikos.
Danone's turnover has risen 13.6% since last year, Rabobank said.
Earlier this summer, the Russian state took control of Danone's operations in the country, a matter it was investigating, although the French company added that this move would have little impact on its full-year financial guidance.
5. Yili (China) - €17.3 Billion*
China's Yili Group is the fifth-largest dairy company globally, with a turnover of around €17.3 billion.
It saw revenue growth of 5.2% in local currency terms, however due to foreign exchange developments, this was just a 0.8% increase in US dollar terms, Rabobank said.
Yili was recently named the second most valuable food brand in the world, by Brand Finance.
6. Arla Foods (Denmark/Sweden) - €13.8 Billion
Arla Foods jumps from ninth to sixth on the list with a turnover of €13.8 billion.
Arla recently cut its sales forecast for the year, saying that rising inflation is leading consumers to turn to cheaper dairy products.
7. FrieslandCampina (Netherlands) - €13.7 Billion*
Netherlands-based FrieslandCampina takes seventh spot with a turnover of €13.7 billion, a jump of one place.
The Dutch operator recently reported a significant drop in operating profits in the first half of its financial year.
8. Mengniu (China) - €13.7 Billion*
Mengniu, based in China, is the eighth-largest dairy company globally, with a turnover of €13.7 billion in 2022. The company has dropped one place down the rankings since last year.
9. Fonterra (New Zealand) - €13.4 Billion*
New Zealand's Fonterra is the ninth-largest dairy company in the world, with a turnover exceeding €13.4 billion. Fonterra has dropped three places in the rankings, having held sixth place last year.
The group recently launched a new division, Nutrition Science Solutions (NSS), through which it will seek to invest in nutritional science platforms and initiatives.
10. Saputo (Canada) - €13.0 Billion
Canada's Saputo secures tenth position with a turnover of €13.0 billion in 2022.
The group recently reported that higher domestic selling prices and initiatives to mitigate costs led to a double digit growth in revenue in its 2023 financial year.
11. Unilever (Netherlands/UK) - €7.9 Billion
Consumer goods giant Unilever ranks eleventh with a turnover of €7.9 billion.
12. Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd (India) - €6.7 Billion
India's Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd takes twelfth spot with a turnover of €6.7 billion. The group has risen one place since last year.
13. Savencia (France) - €6.6 Billion
Savencia, based in France, ranks thirteenth with a turnover of €6.6 billion, a drop of one place since last year.
The group's Cheese Products division has been a key sales driver in recent months, driven by price increases.
14. Müller (Germany) - €6.2 Billion*
Germany's Müller Group secures the fourteenth position with a turnover of 6.2 billion. Known for its dairy and yogurt products, the group has made a jump of three places, having sat in 17th last year.
15. Agropur (Canada) - CAD 6.2 Billion
Canada's Agropur ranks fifteenth with a turnover of €6.2 billion. The cooperative has risen one place year on year.
16. Schreiber Foods (USA) - €6.2 Billion*
Schreiber Foods, based in the USA, is the sixteenth-largest dairy company globally, with a turnover of €6.2 billion in 2022. The company has risen three places, having held 19th place last year.
17. Sodiaal (France) - €5.5 Billion
French dairy cooperative Sodiaal takes the seventeenth spot with a turnover of €5.5 billion. The group has dropped three places since last year.
18. DMK (Germany) - €5.3 Billion*
Germany's DMK Group secures eighteenth position with a turnover of €5.3 billion, retaining its position since last year.
The group said in June that 2022 was its 'most successful' financial year to date.
19. Froneri (UK) - €5.1 Billion
United Kingdom-based Froneri ranks nineteenth with a turnover of €5.1 billion. Froneri specializes in ice cream and frozen desserts, and has jumped a place since last year.
20. Glanbia (Ireland) - €4.8 Billion*
Ireland's Glanbia closes the list as the twentieth-largest dairy company, with a turnover of €4.8 billion. The company, which is largely known for its nutrition products, is a new entry to the list this year.
In August 2023, Hugh McGuire was named as the new chief executive of Glanbia, replacing Siobhán Talbot.
*denotes estimated turnover