Butter Is the Balm Getting Us Through Quarantine, Sales Figures Show

More home-cooked meals and baking hobbyists have driven up butter sales while other parts of the dairy industry have struggled.

It’s one of the secrets as to why restaurant meals often taste better than what you cook at home: Behind closed kitchen doors, some chefs aren’t afraid to let loose with the butter. But with the COVID-19 pandemic causing more people to cook their own meals, apparently, home chefs are taking a more liberal approach to butter as well.

Land O’Lakes says its butter sales will likely be up 20 percent over a normal year in 2020, according to Bloomberg, an incredible uptick given the fact that restaurant demand usually accounts for as much as 20 percent of the company’s business—meaning the increased butter usage at home is on top of any coronavirus-related dip in restaurants sales. “That's a significant increase in our butter business,” CEO Beth Ford said according to the Star Tribune. “That strength is more than offsetting the disruption [to the business-to-business dairy sales].”

Rolled butter
FotografiaBasica/Getty Images

Beyond a desire to make heavier meals at home, this major uptick has apparently also been driven by a favorite isolation hobby: baking. “Often times, even for the retail business, what you do is you make a lot of butter because it’s peak milk production time, and you store it for the key [winter] season,” Ford was also quoted as saying. “But the buying was so strong that we didn’t do that, because we were selling right off the line.”

Some uncertainty still remains over what the typically butter-heavy holiday season may bring since smaller get-togethers may mean fewer and less generous buttery dishes over the course of Thanksgiving and Christmas.

And other parts of the dairy industry have had less positive results. For instance, the Wall Street Journal recently described the U.S. cheese market during the pandemic as “chaos” with the head of Land O’Lakes’ U.S. dairy foods division Heather Anfang explaining that the “change in demand is happening very quickly.” “If you’re selling butter to retail, you know that team is on fire,” Anfang told Fortune. “If you’re selling 50-pound bags of mac and cheese to school, there’s not a lot of sales happening right now.”

So all this helps to explain why, though Land O’Lakes earnings were up, net sales were actually reportedly slightly down. Turns out selling butter at retail has pretty good margins. Maybe that’s why they make it taste so good.

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