Driving Interest From Butter Bombs to Cookies

By Christopher Galen, Executive Director, The American Butter Institute

In a year when dairy commodities have been hit hard by slumping prices, butter has remained at the head of the class, barely dipping below $2.50 per pound at the wholesale level and recently rebounding to $2.75 per pound heading into the holiday baking season. Part of the reason for the strong demand, even with high inflation over the past two years, has been the American Butter Institute’s consumer awareness campaign about the value of butter in so many uses.

Our “Go Bold With Butter” campaign — funded mostly through the national dairy checkoff — reminds consumers of how useful butter is compared to plant-based oils and spreads. It also offers new recipes and product use ideas, from butter boards to butter bombs. You’ve probably heard of butter boards; basically, they are party-ready charcuterie trays featuring softened butter rather than meats and cold cuts. Meanwhile, butter bombs are a social media-worthy creation of a hollow sphere of butter filled either with savory ingredients like herbs, which people can melt on a grilled steak, or sweet ingredients like cinnamon sugar, suitable for use on breakfast foods like pancakes.

We also recently started a new consumer education program we’re calling “Butter Bits.” These are digestible snippets of friendly education we are sharing on social media that highlight butter as the solution to everyday cooking and baking challenges. This series of videos will follow a problem-and-solution format in a fast-paced, engaging, and entertaining way.

Since we are approaching the prime Christmas cookie-baking season, one of our regular seasonal promotions is our recipe contest. Each fall, the contest invites consumers to submit as many original cookie recipes as they wish. The “Go Bold With Butter” experts narrow the field of entrants to a few dozen and then bake up a (baker’s) dozen of the finalists to determine the best of that year’s class. The contest is open from now until November 1, and the rules and entry requirements are at www.goboldwithbutter.com.

Butter has clearly won the hearts, minds, and stomachs of many consumers whose preference for real dairy over vegetable spreads in the past generation has forced competitors to start calling their margarines “vegan butter.” But we can’t rest on our laurels: The “Go Bold With Butter” campaign reminds us that even though retail butter prices may rise, the elevated value real butter offers is worth it.

This column originally appeared in Hoard’s Dairyman Intel on September 18, 2023.

Happy Thanksgiving! There’s Plenty of Butter

First, the bad news (for consumers): Heading into the holiday baking season, butter prices are, indeed at an all-time high. That’s for a few reasons. The biggest one is simple demand. Americans love butter, with the highest per capita consumption since the 1960s leading to the highest overall demand ever for the nation’s pre-eminent spread and ubiquitous baking ingredient. Overseas markets are also getting in on the act, with another record year for dairy trade possible in 2022.

Meanwhile, butter supplies haven’t, as of yet, been able to keep up with that demand enough to stabilize prices. That’s especially been the case in the past couple months, when retailers traditionally stock up in anticipation of the holidays. And of course, once you get past the actual cost of making butter itself and then add transportation, packaging, labor, and all the other the costs that are making everything else more expensive too, you have a recipe for record butter prices on the grocery shelf. And that’s making consumers (and media) notice.

But are higher prices the same thing as a “shortage”? We posit, not. Are store shelves empty? There’s always some one-off instances somewhere, but with those exceptions, no. Are crowds of consumers lining up for blocks outside local supermarkets to buy out rationed supplies, like early-COVID toilet paper? (Everyone stand six feet apart, please!) No again. And is anyone who wants to buy butter currently being deprived of anything other than $5 should they choose a four-pack, maybe a little extra if it’s extra-creamy European Style?!?? (And often less is you catch a good sale.)

That’s three strikes, and still, no one’s out of butter.

It’s easy to understand the concern: Butter is, after all, nature’s most perfect sandwich spread, the ingredient that makes a top-quality croissant worthy of a nasal-sounding French pronunciation. And even with all this, the underlying concern that’s fueled the “shortage” worries is itself showing signs of fading. Milk production is on the rise again, and with that, butter futures traded on commodities markets are declining. While some product prices rise and stay that way, butter goes up and down. Take a look at this chart — a dozen years of butter-price history that includes both the value of butterfat to a farmer (blue line) and the cost at the grocery store (orange line). See how they move together – and see where the blue line’s expected to go in 2023.

“What goes up, must come down” applies to butter. Production chases prices, and eventually higher production pushes prices down. That’s not always so great for farmers, by the way – and one nice thing for them about current pricing is that it’s helping farmers smooth out a challenging few years and rebuild the balance sheets they need to thrive. So be patient if you’re feeling sticker shock, and in the meantime, feel good that you’re helping a farmer.

But above all, don’t feel like you’re at risk of a butterless Christmas. The food chain, and the law of supply and demand, are ensuring that doesn’t happen. The holidays would be less happy without butter, but it just ain’t gonna happen. So Happy Thanksgiving. And here’s to, um, butter days ahead.

Butter and Cheese Keep Dairy’s Rise Constant

While we won’t know until Friday whether U.S. per-capita dairy consumption will officially rise for the seventh time in eight years, we do know from preliminary data that domestic use of butter and cheese reached records in 2021. Then again, that’s far from a surprise.


Though other dairy products have had their ups and downs (mostly up), for the past decade butter and cheese have been Old Reliables, with neither ever seeing consumption decline a single time. Their rising popularity has offset drops in fluid-milk consumption (the typical, and inaccurate, trope that anti-dairy activists use to pronounce “death” upon the industry) and is a big part of the industry’s continued success and bright future.

Dairy, as an industry, is in constant evolution, from advances in science to innovations in sustainability. But throughout, “bring on the butter” and “more cheese, please” have been continual refrains.  The data shows it, and there’s no reason think those words won’t echo for years to come.