The continuing trend toward consuming natural products has led consumers to turn to a surprising product: butter.
Long considered enemy number one for cardiovascular disease, the dairy product has started shucking off its unhealthy connotations in recent years. As CNBC says, a Time cover story published in 2014 encouraging people to “eat butter” was just one of the contributing factors.
In the story, Time reported that saturated fats aren’t as bad for health as scientists once said. Recent studies about the link between butter and heart disease – once strong, now weakened – have also helped butter’s reputation. Butter is back, and people are switching from margarine and other substitutes, returning to the product because of the natural movement.
However, in Europe, as people eat more butter, production has actually been slowing. According to CNN, wholesale prices have almost doubled in the continent due to disparities between demand and availability. Many businesses, like French bakeries and pastry shops, have so far shielded their customers from paying higher prices for their baked goods. Meanwhile, others have had to increase rates for delectables like croissants and pan au chocolat by as much as 20%.
An Unstable Market Might Mean Exploding Pastry Prices
Butter production has slowed because dairy farmers in Europe are not breaking even. The price they get for their milk is lower than what it costs to produce. The main blame for this issue is the fact that there is currently an excess of powdered milk in the market – 350,000 tons, to be exact. Another contributing factor is that most milk is used to make cream or cheese, not butter.
Next on the list, a shortage follows from years of instability in the dairy industry in Europe. Prices fell dramatically in 2014 after Russia embargoed European food products. The drop in profits for dairy farmers meant that scores went out of business, including over 1,000 in the U.K., according to CNN.
Pastries are in danger. Croissants alone are made up of a whopping amount of the stuff, at least one-quarter, to produce their customary flaky texture and melt-in-your-mouth flavor. If butter becomes harder to acquire, prices for pastries, cakes, and other goods that depend on butter are expected to skyrocket. In places like France, where the market for pastries and baked delicacies is in-demand for good reason, this spells trouble. The country alone has tens of thousands of bakeries and boulangeries-patisseries – at least 30,000, according to the Guardian.
As butter becomes dearer, and pastry prices go up, sales will inevitably go down, and many businesses may not be able to stay open in the long run. According to the Guardian, a member of the Federation of French biscuit and cake-makers said that there’s a risk of butter “running out” and the pressure the industry faces is “unsustainable.”
So far, butter prices have doubled within a year.