Prior to the pandemic, butter consumption had already been on the rise in the US. With fat no longer the dietary enemy, and the trans-fatty acids historically found in margarine deemed unhealthy, per capita annual butter consumption jumped from 4.9 lbs in 2010 to 6.3 lbs in 2020, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Economic Research Service.

While pandemic-fueled at-home baking resulted in large spikes in retail butter sales, away from home consumption was drastically cut. In fact, the per capita consumption increase from 2019 to 2020 was only 0.1 lbs.

Butter manufacturers had to pivot from bulk sales for foodservice into more options for retail. This resulted in the development of new forms and flavors. Enter the concept of culinary-inspired compound cooking butters into mainstream America.

Epicurean Butter, Federal Heights, Colo., has been in this space for a while. The company’s 1-oz knead, squeeze and enjoy portion packs really took off once pandemic food fatigue set in. Retailers include them with packaged meat, poultry and fish, as well as in washed and trimmed produce ready for cooking.

Salt Lake City-based Chef Shamy is rebranding its flavor-packed craft butters to be named Better Butter. Part of the rebrand includes marketing plans to communicate that the butters are designed to make everything taste more amazing, according to Chef David Shamy. Flavors include everything from savory asiago chive and steakhouse to sweet strawberry and vanilla.

One of the most innovative concepts this past year comes from Challenge Dairy Products, Dublin, Calif. In response to the growth in snacking and consumers’ insatiable appetite for flavor adventure, the 111-year old dairy rolled out Challenge Butter Snack Spreads. Made with real butter and no artificial flavors, the spreads come in three dessert and three seasoned varieties. They are buffalo, chocolate, everything seasoned, garlic parmesan and herb, salted caramel and vanilla fudge. The company is also addressing the health- and wellness-seeking consumer with spreadable butters that combine dairy butter with better-for-you plant-based oils, such as avocado, canola and olive.

The largest branded US butter manufacturer – Land O’Lakes, Arden Hills, Minn. – wants a piece of the flavored butter action and now offers limited-edition varieties. Maple Me Crazy Maple Brown Sugar Butter Spread has cream as the number-one ingredient, followed by brown sugar, water, canola oil, maple syrup and other minor ingredients. Pumpkin Pie Spice will debut in the fall.

Imported butters are gaining traction in the US as the concept of sustainability resonates with shoppers. These products are coming from countries such as New Zealand, which has one of the lowest on-farm carbon footprints in the world. Early this year, Anchor, the consumer brand of New Zealand dairy cooperative Fonterra, rolled out Organic carbonzero Certified Butter, which is made with cream from independently certified organic farms. It has a fresh creamy taste and rich golden hue to reflect New Zealand cows’ pasture-rich diet.

Glanbia Ireland now offers Truly Grass Fed Spreadable Butter in the US. It is made from cows that are 95% grass-fed, Non-GMO Project Verified, Animal Welfare Approved by A Greener World, and free from growth hormones and antibiotics.

Category innovations

• New Challenge Butter Snack Spreads are made with real butter and merchandised in the refrigerated spreads department. They come in three dessert and three seasoned varieties.

• For consumers seeking restaurant-quality butter for the at-home dinner table, Land O’Lakes now offers salted Butter Balls. Each ball is about a half-tablespoon portion.

• La Vaquita, a wholly owned subsidiary of Dairy Farmers of America, added butter to its lineup in Texas.

• Gay Lea’s new Farmhouse Salted Whey Butter is churned to 82% milkfat. The flavor is described as slightly nutty and earthy with hints of cheese.

Top butter brands

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- All data included in this butter category report was provided by IRI, a Chicago-based research firm, and is current as of June 27, 2022.