The storyline in butter this year is flavor. Like their counterparts in milk, cheese, yogurt and ice cream, buttermakers are adding ingredients to make their products sweeter or more savory. Take for example, a sea salt and cracked pepper spreadable butter under the Challenge brand introduced this summer from California Dairies Inc.

It is packaged in a 7-ounce plastic container. Challenge this year also rolled out a light spreadable butter with olive and canola oils.

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In a statement this summer, Challenge Dairy Products’ Senior Vice President of Retail and Food Service Tim Anderson said, “The spreadable category is one that is growing rapidly alongside home chefs’ desires for more flavorful, convenient and healthier options.”

Land O’ Lakes, Arden Hills, Minn., continues to develop its popular Sauté Express Sauté Starter product used for sautéing chicken, fish, pork and vegetables. This autumn, the company launched teriyaki, which has ginger and sesame flavors.

“Consumers have been telling us they want more Asian flavors,” said Becky Wahlund, director of the Test Kitchen at Land O’Lakes.

The company also created a new garlic and herb flavor of spreadable butter blended with canola oil and packaged it in a larger (24 ounce) container.

Land O’Lakes has found that consumers are moving away from margarine spreads to the butter category because they seek “more wholesome alternatives,” according to a company spokeswoman.

Also spurring growth in butter is the category’s focus on convenience, such as spreadable butters and half-stick packaging. In the Dairy Foods2013 Ingredient Study, butter makers reported they plan to introduce an average of 21 new products within the next 12 months. That’s greater than any other dairy products category.

Epicurean Butter, Federal Heights, Colo., is a specialty food manufacturer selling various flavors of compound butters. The company buys butter from the West Coast and seasons and packages it in 3.5-ounce cups in Colorado. Its newest flavor, introduced at this year’s International Dairy Deli Bake show, is maple syrup.

Grocery giant Kroger entered the flavored butter game in late October with three savory and three sweet Private Selection Finishing Butters.

Like milk, ice cream and yogurt, butter is a good carrier of flavor. Expect to see more innovations in the category as smaller processors follow the leaders.  


The butter dish

  • Butter sales: $2,017,483,000*. Up 1.4% from previous period
  • Margarine sales: $1,854,747,000*. Down 5.6%

*Retail sales for the 52 weeks ended Aug. 11, 2013

Source: Information Resources Inc., Chicago

Fewer plants, but more butter

Year        Plants     Production (pounds)

2012        82            1,859,554,000

2011        85            1,809,751,000

2010        76            1,563,972,000

2009        80            1,572,488,000

2008        81            1,644,076,000

 Source: National Agricultural Statistics Service, USDA