Last year markets for butter and cheese expanded markedly, reflecting not only rising retail purchases by consumers but also the growing use of butter and cheese by the foodservice and industrial markets in, for example, sandwiches, frozen and fresh dishes and fast foods.
Wholesale sales of butter soared 10% year-on-year last year, while cheese sales were up 7%, according to import and export figures and UK output volumes.
UK butter production rose 7%, a result of using the spare cream produced in processing growing volumes of skim milk.
Net imports of butter, after allowing for slightly lower exports, were up 16%. Stocks of butter also fell during the year, mainly those in intervention. Wholesale sales rose by 22,000 tonnes, reversing the trend of the past two decades, when consumption steadily declined.
The growing consumption of cheese in the UK is not new, but last year there was a bigger than usual increase in wholesale sales, mainly due to soaring UK output. Some 405,200 tonnes were produced - a record level, 11% more than in 2004.
Cheese imports rose last year by 14,000 tonnes, or 4%, but this was offset by a 12% rise in exports to leave net imports 1.5%, or 3,700 tonnes, higher. This meant 7% more cheese was available in the UK. Stocks in public stores fell by 7,800 tonnes, but this was offset by a rise in the volume held in private stores for maturing to meet growing demand for mature Cheddar.
Overall total cheese wholesale sales rose by 6-8% - the biggest annual increase ever seen in the UK.