Through a case study of dairy products in Spain, this article discusses the evolution of what economist Louis Malassis called ‘food consumption models’ in the West from the Second World War. Two distinct consumption models are identified: a first model based on the massification of milk consumption, and a second model featuring decreasing dairy consumption, an increasing role for second-degree processed products and the emergence of new consumer segmentations. Rather than a sudden shift from the first to the second model, there was a punctuated sequence comprising an intermediate transition period in the last two decades of the twentieth century. Using an evolutionary political economy approach, I argue that the key to this transition was a transformation in consumer preferences resulting not only from changes in nutritional discourse, but also from changes in the profit making strategies of dairy agribusinesses and from the interaction of both trajectories of structural change with consumer agency.
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