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Butter supplies ready for holiday baking

brebca/Getty Images Homemade Christmas cookies with baking ingredients
PRIME INGREDIENT: Holidays bring out the bakers and cooks in all of us. And there’s a key ingredient on everyone’s list: butter.
Dairy co-ops say there will be an ample supply of butter for the holiday season, thanks to early planning.

Consumers have been forewarned to expect supply chain issues this holiday season and to be prepared to see fewer choices for store shelves.

That’s not the case for butter. Even with the U.S. hitting a new high in 2020 with butter consumption averaging 6.3 pounds per person, butter production remains strong amid high demand.

The Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin marketing board projects that consumers nationwide will buy 161 million pounds of butter this holiday season — enough to bake 11 billion butter cookies.

Butter manufacturers are ready, having learned a few supply chain lessons during the pandemic in 2020.

“Our supply chain starts with the farm, and our biggest ingredient — milk — is secure,” says Heather Anfang, senior vice president of U.S. dairy foods at Land O’ Lakes, Arden Hills, Minn. Farmer-members supply the co-op with a reliable supply of raw product, helping the co-op provide the top-selling butter in the U.S.

“Cows don’t know we’re in the middle of COVID. They need to be milked every day,” she adds.

The challenge this marketing season was getting product out of manufacturing facilities and onto grocery store shelves. In anticipation of holiday demand, plus additional stress on the supply chain caused by the pandemic, Anfang says Land O’ Lakes started working earlier with their customers — retailers such as Cub Foods, Lund’s and Byerly’s, Walmart, and Kroger — to take shipments. Usually, retailers would start getting butter shipments in late October and early November. This year, they started in early October.

The co-op also worked with retailers to ensure full pallet orders to deliver product more efficiently.

Important partnerships

At the Upper Midwest regional dairy cooperative, AMPI, New Ulm, Minn., relied on relationships with its supply chain partners to ensure product availability. AMPI manufactures butter under its Dinner Bell Creamery label and provides nearly 10% of the nation’s butter.

“While trucks and drivers seem to be short nationwide, AMPI works with a team of carriers year-round and has developed relationships that help the co-op ensure orders reach customers during the peak holiday demand season,” says Marshall Reece, AMPI senior vice president of sales.

Reece also is the current president of the American Butter Institute. “If grocery store shelves appear short of butter, that could be a sign of the ongoing labor shortage and not enough workers to stock shelves, not the availability of butter,” he says.

With or without the challenges of a pandemic impacting the market, ensuring there is enough butter on grocery shelves with peak holiday cooking and baking takes preparation.

“Each year it takes quite a bit of advance planning to meet demand for butter in the fourth quarter. The holidays represent the peak consumer buying time for butter,” Reece says, adding, “Yes, there will be enough butter to meet demand in 2021.”

Butter up

Consumers have been buying more butter over the last decade. Butter consumption hit a low at 4.2 pounds per person in 1997, and it’s been inching up since, up to the current 6.3 pounds per person.

According to USDA’s Economics Research Service, 78% of U.S. households bought butter or butter blends in 2020. In raw dollars, butter sales rose by $621 million — a 19% increase — from 2019 to 2020.


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