Retail demand keeps a lid on butter stock build-up

Thursday, 25 March 2021

By Patty Clayton

Despite an increase in the UK’s total supplies of butter[1] in 2020, the nature of the import/export mix and shifts in demand patterns has left the non-retail market with lower availability.

The combination of stable production and import volumes, along with a drop in exports saw total available supplies increase by 3.7% on the year. 

When we break imports into packet and bulk butter, different patterns emerge. In line with the shift in demand to in-home consumption, there was an increase in imports of packet butter. These reached 32.2k tonnes in 2020, an increase of 4.5k tonnes (16%) from 2019. However, the loss of demand from the foodservice sector saw bulk butter imports drop, leaving overall imports up less than 1,000 tonnes.

While we did import 4.5k tonnes more packet butter, the strong jump up in retail sales meant more of our domestic production will have been directed to the retail market. As such, the supplies available for the remainder of the market (food manufacturing, catering, etc) were lower than in 2019.

It is worth noting that availability through the year was probably lower than these figures suggest.  As a precaution from the expected trade difficulties due to our exit from the EU, imports of butter in December reached more than three times the average monthly volumes seen over the year, boosting the annual total. If we exclude these excess volumes from total availability, supplies would have been around 9% lower.

[1] Natural butter, excluding dairy spreads and butteroils

Image of staff member Patty Clayton

Patty Clayton

Lead Analyst - Dairy

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