This week has brought good news for dairy.
The American Butter Institute trade group announced that butter sales were at a 40-year high in 2012 with consumers eating 5.6 pounds per year, up from 4.1 pounds in 1997.
And the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board put out a release citing IRI and USDA data that indicates U.S. production and consumption is at “an all-time high.”
A Los Angeles Times story attributed the rise in butter consumption to consumer interest in “natural” foods; the villainization of the transfats for health concerns; and proposed rules by the FDA that would phase out transfats.
The LAT’s story also notes that butter is “a symbol of America's growing appreciation of authentic cooking and its fascination with gluttony.”
While the point about authentic cooking is right on, I don’t think the renewed appreciation of butter is necessarily about gluttony. Americans have undeniably been struggling with the balance of overeating and dieting for a long time, but some consumers are looking to eat "real" foods that they think will better nourish their bodies. Instead of binging on five packages of reduced fat cookies, why not have a couple homemade cookies made with real butter?
After years of eating foods with ingredients that they could not identify or pronounce, they are looking for a little of something real. Like other fats, butter may not be heart healthy in excess, but consumers can trace its origins easily back to a simple place — the cow.
The same folks who are turning to butter are the sames ones are looking for traditional meals and desserts, but in sensible portions. It’s no secret that bakery departments have seen growth in sales of single serve bakery items. Fast casual restaurants Potbelly and Pret now have tons of small cookies and bars available for a full fat, bite-sized treat on the run.
Retailers should keep in mind that more consumers are looking for an authentic meal experience, made with foods that might not be diffferent from what their grandparents ate.
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