Last year TikTok introduced Americans to the “butter board,” a social media sensation rooted in dairy checkoff strategy. Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), Rosemont, Ill., had assembled a “Dairy Dream Team” consisting of chefs, recipe developers, foodies, gamers and lifestyle influencers, along with influencers working with state and regional checkoff teams, to get creative with new ways dairy can be enjoyed by consumers, particularly Gen Z.
The butter board video featured multiple sticks of softened butter spread over a charcuterie-style wooden board with garnishes, such as edible flowers, herbs, honey and sea salt crystals. The video went viral, inspiring people to post their own butter board versions on social media channels – and fueled creations throughout the winter holidays.
“This is part of what the checkoff’s modern marketing strategy looks like,” said Barbara O’Brien, president and chief executive officer at DMI. “By working with social media influencers, we are meeting consumers where they are and giving them new reasons to choose dairy.”
Gen Z – tomorrow’s future head-of-household shoppers – are responding. Recent research from HealthFocus International, Des Plaines, Ill., showed that younger consumers are more open to animal fats, such as butter, ghee and tallow, compared to their older counterparts. They may be more receptive to these fats due to recent questioning of government recommendations to limit saturated fats, while older groups have been instructed in these recommendations much longer.
“Tallow – the number-one rated ‘bad fat,’ seems to be having a resurgence, driven by younger and specialty consumers,” said Cali Amos, director of human insights. “While counter to the plant-based trend, this fat hits on many other health and wellness trends, including real food, clean, sustainability – nose-to-tail, low-waste – and lifestyle diets (such as) keto, carnivore, whole 30.”
Data show that consumption of butter continues to grow year-after-year, as the number of younger and specialty shoppers control more of the retail food dollar. Per capita annual butter consumption jumped from 4.3 pounds in 2001 to 5.4 pounds in 2011 to 6.5 pounds in 2021, according to the US Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service.
While pandemic-fueled at-home baking resulted in large spikes in retail butter sales, marketers are now focusing on other uses for butter. This includes culinary-inspired flavored butters to assist with food fatigue.
Challenge Dairy Products Inc., Dublin, Calif., has found much success with its Challenge Butter Snack Spreads. Made with real butter and no artificial flavors, the spreads made their debut in early 2022 in three dessert and three seasoned varieties. They are buffalo, chocolate, everything seasoned, garlic parmesan and herb, salted caramel and vanilla fudge.
A year later, the 112-year old dairy teamed up with Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, a brand owned by McCormick & Company, Hunt Valley, Md., to offer consumers a “butter” way to enjoy Lawry’s iconic Seasoning Salt on their favorite foods. The company also has a new dessert flavor: lemon.
“Our Butter Snack Spread line is designed to bring more flavor to our consumers so we are thrilled to add Lawry’s, a family-favorite kitchen staple, to our latest offering,” said Michael Burdeny, president of Challenge Dairy Products. “Challenge and Lawry’s products have been loved for generations and we predict fans of both will be ecstatic to easily elevate their snacks and meals with this new versatile butter.”
A new player in this space is Churn Foods, Culver City, Calif. While working as a chef, Michael Tashman, founder, began marveling over possibilities for flavored butter as he better understood butter’s profound presence in fine cuisine and home kitchens. Churn Butter was born.
“Using only the finest grass-fed, hormone-free, non-GMO, high butterfat, European style butter from California and our chef-crafted recipes, all of our butters are designed to be incredibly flavorful on their own and have a multitude of culinary applications,” he said. “We promise, our butters will absolutely transform the way you cook and eat at home.”
• Ireland-based Kerrygold is bringing Butter Blends to the US. The three varieties are Bell Pepper & Garden Herbs, Chive & Onion and Sundried Tomato & Basil. The butter is made with milk from Irish grass-fed cows.
• 4th & Heart, Los Angeles, now offers Ghee Butter Sticks. Ghee is made by distilling butter down to its purest form, removing water and lactose. The result is a rich, lactose-free alternative to butter and cooking oils. Being 100% butterfat, ghee appeals to those following a keto and paleo lifestyle.
• Dream Butters, Colorado Springs, Colo., made its national debut in 13 flavors in 2023. The 10 yearround flavors are: Bacon Blue, Cinnamon Sugar, Garlic Herb, Green Chili, Jalapeno Lime, Lemon Caper, Lemon Pepper, Onion Parmesan, Salted Caramel and Sundried Tomato. The three fall/winter varieties include Cranberry Orange, Pumpkin Spice and Rosemary Herb.
• Neutral, Portland, Ore., works with dairy farmers to drive down the carbon emissions of milk. Its latest product is Neutral Extra Creamy Butter, which is 84% butterfat and comes in unsalted and sea salt varieties.