“Chefs, producers and dairy companies are excited about butter being back … and are taking it to new flavor places by consolidating all the flavor that is innately in butter and can be cooked out of butter naturally or infused into butter,” Kara Nielsen, a trendologist, said during a recent Packaged Facts webinar to promote an upcoming report on 2017 culinary trends.
For example, cultured butter is making the jump from a novelty to something sought after by consumers in retail stores, she said.
Part of the appeal is an enhanced tangy flavor, but consumers also are drawn to the heritage production of cultured butter, Nielsen said.
“This is how butter used to be made after the cows were milked, the cream was left on top before churning and the micro-organisms in that cream would convert the simple sugars into lactic acid, bringing in different tastes of the sour, sweet, salty and bitter umami,” Nielsen said.
Examples of cultured butter already in the market include Kerrygold, Organic Valley and versions from Trader Joe’s, Vermont Creamery and the Sierra Nevada Cheese Company.
Brown butter becomes more convenient
Brown butter also is crossing over from a made-to-use ingredient favored by pastry chefs for its nutty, caramelized flavor, to something packaged and sold at retail for convenience, Nielsen said.
The ingredient reached maturation in the restaurant space with a 60% increase in menu appearances in the past four years, according to Dataessentials MenuTrends data. As a result, consumers are now familiar with it and seeking it out.
Tin Star and Fruition are two companies offering CPG brown butter.
Flavored butter abounds
Flavored butter also has emerged as a “huge story in restaurants lately when chefs are having all kinds of fun creating different flavor profiles for their butter, whether it is served with bread or added to dish,” Nielsen said.
Early CPG adopters include Epicurean Butter, Vermont Creamery and Lurpak.
Butter as an experience
Finally, some retailers are starting to get into the action by hand-churning butter in their stores.
Harvest Market in Champaign, Ill., churns butter in store as a way to reinforce consumer ties to farmers and dairies as well as to offer fresh options to shoppers, Nielsen said.
By trading on history, freshness, flavor and quality these companies likely could ride out any potential negative shift in how butter is viewed for health reasons going forward, to still offer successful, innovative products.