Australian consumers are rediscovering butter, Dairy Australia chief executive officer Ian Halliday told a dairy conference in Shepparton last week.
He pointed to a growing demand for butter in Australia and said the message about butter being a part of a healthy diet was getting through after years of cautionary tales about the dairy product.
And in other categories, sales of whole milk are up, cheese sales are up, but yoghurt and dairy desserts are only slightly up this year.
The average price of butter has increased by about 30 per cent in August, compared to the same time last year.
Mr Halliday told the Murray Dairy Business Forum at the Shepparton Showgrounds there had been a growing consumer appetite for butter at the expense of vegetable oil substitutes.
He said in part this was due to an evolving understanding of the risks posed by consumption of saturated fats, suggesting they may not be directly responsible for cardiovascular disease, and also the health risks posed by modified or fat-free products often containing either highly refined carbohydrates or trans-fats (most products have been re-formulated to remove trans-fats).
Mr Halliday said a return to more natural, less processed foods in home cooking had also contributed to a growing consumer demand for butter in Australia and in countries such as the United States, and a decline in sales of margarine substitutes, even in the face of higher butter prices.
Supermarket sales volumes of cheese grew by three per cent over 2016-17, while the overall value of supermarket cheese sales grew by 0.6 per cent.
Growth in the yoghurt and dairy desserts category remains subdued, with overall volumes increasing 1.2 per cent from 210500tonnes to 213100 tonnes between 2015-16 and 2016-17.
Supermarket milk sales volumes grew by 2.5 per cent to 1414million litres in the 12 months to September, while the category’s sales value grew 4.6 per cent to almost $2235million.