In the last year, 55% of grocery buyers bought butter in an average month—a substantial increase on the 47% who would buy the spread it in 2012.
Butter buyers eclipsed the 45% who bought margarine, a figure which has declined by 20% since 2012, and the 30% who chose dairy spreads, according to Roy Morgan Research.
But butter buying is not binary, and many shoppers buy more than one different kind of spread each month, the survey found. Nearly one in five purchase both butter and margarine, 16.5% buy butter and dairy spread, 11.5% opt for margarine and dairy spread. A further 8.7% buy all three.
Among buyers of each type of spread, supermarkets’ own brands feature prominently, with different varieties of Western Star, Devondale and Flora also being popular choices.
Almost 30% of those who buy butter in an average month opt for a supermarket brand, putting Western Star (20%) in second spot; and 18% of those who purchase margarine also choose home-brand, ahead of the 10.0% who choose Nuttelex.
Devondale Dairy Soft (18%) dominates the butter-blend/dairy-spread market, with supermarket brands in third spot, at 12%.
“Opinion is divided over whether butter is better than margarine or vice-versa, with most health experts advising that eating too much of either is prejudicial to the health, due to their high—albeit different kinds of—fat content,” said Norman Morris of Roy Morgan Research.
“The argument is too complex to go into here: suffice it to say that, while butter was once considered the bad guy for its saturated fat content, it has since gained ground at the expense of margarine, which has recently been under scrutiny for being too processed.”
The market researcher’s data shows that the trend towards butter over margarine continues to build, though it also suggests that many Australians are hedging their bets by buying both.
“It’s quite revealing that butter consumption does not differ greatly between age groups and is consistently much more widely consumed than the other spreads., though margarine consumption tracks steadily upwards past the age of 35, peaking with folks aged 65 or older,” Morris added.
“Butter, margarine and butter-blend brands wishing to negotiate this tricky market and convince consumers to choose their product would be in a far better position to do so equipped with the holistic, in-depth knowledge of grocery buyers’ attitudes, purchasing habits and demographics.”