Is Europe Heading for a Great Butter Shortage? This Association Says Yes

A French bakers’ group recently warned that the low supply of butter is sending prices soaring throughout Europe, which could lead to higher croissant prices. What’s causing the problem—and what does it mean for our insatiable food habits?

Is Europe’s supply of butter melting away? Bizarre as that sounds, it’s a legitimate concern.

That’s according to the Federation des Entrepreneurs de la Boulangerie (FEB), a French baker group, which says a butter shortage could lead to higher prices for baked goods. In June alone, prices jumped by nearly 20 percent from last year, according to statistics from Euromonitor.

In a statement reported by CNN Money, the federation warned: “The price of butter, while certainly volatile, has never reached such a level before. Butter shortages appear to be a real threat by the end of the year.”

The Root Causes

Part of the problem, analysts say, is that butter is becoming more popular among natural-minded consumers who once would have preferred alternatives such as margarine. Additionally, recent reports on the health effects of eating butter—notably in Time—have suggested that previous beliefs about its risks were overstated.

According to CNN contributor David A. Andelman, the problem can also be traced to a dairy surplus last year that led to a cut in production, along with with an increase in exports, particularly to China.

In comments to CNBC, FEB spokesman Matthieu Labbé said its members would probably have to pass the price increases onto consumers.

“In France, if bakeries wish to make croissants, pain au chocolat, or patisseries, then consumers will have to pay more. We hope they understand our position, because making quality products means charging a higher price at this time,” Labbé said.

The U.S. faced a similar buttery deficit in 2014, also driven by exports—particularly to New Zealand, which had suffered shortages of its own and turned to the U.S. to fill the gap. At the time, Peter Vitaliano, vice president of economic policy and market research at the American Butter Institute, told NPR that a shortage in one part of the world would be balanced out thanks to added supply from elsewhere.

“It would be very shortsighted for Grandma to go without her pumpkin pie this year,” he said.

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Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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