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Independent.ie

Monday 23 July 2018

Why the world loves Irish Butter - exports surged 60pc last year

Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

We produce a lot of food in Ireland, but it's butter that continues to be the big winner for Irish food and drink exports. But what is it about the yellowy, fat laden product that consumers love?

Last year, dairy products were the largest sector of Irish exports and this was driven by butter sales worldwide. Sales of Irish whiskey, infant formula and beef are all growing, but it's butter that continues to remain the stand out product and for a number of reasons.

A picture of  butter made the front of Time magazine in 2014 with the headline 'Eat Butter'. It heralded a revolution in consumers attitudes to 'bad' fats such as butter, which are now considered not only better than alternatives such as margarine and low-fat spreads, but actually that fats are good for you.

In case you've never heard of the LCHF (low carb, high fat) diet, it's the one where people put butter in their coffee. Yes, that's butter in coffee instead of milk or cream.

Or if you're into a caveman/Paleo diet, butter is good too. And, while it's the high fat content that is behind the trend towards diets that shun refined foods, it's the taste of Irish butter, namely Kerrygold, that sees it pop up time and time again as the butter of choice.

But, even if you're not so keen on putting butter in your coffee and just want it on your toast, Irish butter is the choice of consumers worldwide. Kerrygold is the top selling butter in Germany, selling more than any Germany or other imported butter. And it's the rich yellow colour, depth of flavour that makes Irish butter so popular.

Read also: Eighth successive year of growth sees Irish agri-food exports hit record €12.6bn

Bord Bia's CEO Tara McCarthy described the sales of Irish butter as "extraordinary" as consumers chased "new health options" and demand continued to grow and sales of Irish butter are heading towards €900m.

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Our climate allows Irish cows to spend most of the year outdoors, eating grass, which gives the butter a naturally yellow colour and richer flavour. But it come at a cost - Kerrygold is 50pc more expensive in Germany than regular butter and since last year Kerrygold will be on supermarket shelves in South Korea.

Consumer trends are always changing, but there has been a steady move towards healthier and more natural fats in recent years, and that's good news for butter.

Kerrygold butter
Kerrygold butter

Ireland is the largest exporter of butter in the EU and last year as other countries saw dairy production contract and with it butter availability not able to keep up with growing demand, butter prices soared.

The increased production of milk and butter in some countries, including Ireland, had masked the growing demand the supply elastic was stretched so far that supermarkets in France ran out of croissants as butter supplies fell and bakers were not able to source the key ingredient as demand for unadulterated butter drove prices sky high.

And, it's a good thing it's so popular, Irish dairy production is up 6-8pc as the end of milk quotas saw dairy farmers expand in recent years and continued consumer demand will be needed to ensure Irish dairy products find a home in fridges around the world.


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