Leftovers: Land O’Lakes cuts corners on butter; Saputo spreads into plant-based cheese

Leftovers is our look at a few of the product ideas popping up everywhere. Some are intriguing, some sound amazing and some are the kinds of ideas we would never dream of. We can’t write about everything that we get pitched, so here are some leftovers pulled from our inboxes.​​​​​​

Land O’Lakes has a ball with butter

Consumers have grown accustomed to buying butter in traditional rectangular blocks, but Land O’Lakes is looking to cut corners with its latest offering.

The agribusiness and food company is debuting butter balls in pre-portioned sizes designed to make cooking easier. The half-tablespoon-sized balls come packaged in a resealable half-pound bag and will be sold at retailers in the Midwest.

Land O’Lakes, with $16 billion in sales last year, said its innovation team has been looking for solutions for the millions of Americans who spent more time cooking at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The member-owned cooperative observed that with nearly 75% of U.S. consumers wanting to continue making meals, many people were eager for a simpler way of doing things.

“We see this product as the answer to the convenience consumers crave while staying true to the great product they rely on — sweet cream butter,” Heather Anfang, the U.S. vice president of Land O’Lakes Dairy Foods, said in a statement. “While the pandemic created unprecedented challenges across all industries, … we chose to lean in and are excited to bring this unique product to consumers this summer.”

Once out of favor with consumers because of its unhealthy reputation, butter was growing in popularity before the pandemic. People making everything from cakes and cookies to rolls and crusts were attracted to its simple ingredient list and clean label association.

Demand is only expected to accelerate. The global butter market is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate from $37 billion last year to just over $49 billion by 2028, according to data from Fortune Business Insights.

Similar to other foods, butter prices have surged during the last year, rising nearly 16%, according to the U.S. government. Milk has been hit particularly hard amid an increase in demand and higher costs of buying cattle, animal feed and farm labor.

— Christopher Doering

Courtesy of Saputo


Saputo spreads into plant-based cheese

As dairy prices climb, global dairy producer and processor Saputo is not having a cow. In fact, its new Vitalite plant-based cheese line has no dairy at all.

Vitalite — which comes in mozzarella and cheddar slices and shreds, grated parmesan and spreadable cream cheese varieties — was designed to deliver a taste and melt similar to its dairy counterparts.

“As demand for vegan cheese continues to grow, many consumers have been vocal about how difficult it has been to find a plant-based cheese that lives up to their expectations,” David Cherrie, Saputo Dairy USA vice president for marketing and innovation, said in a press release. “As a dairy company, we are experts at making cheese people love and crave. Where other plant-based cheeses fall short, we saw an opportunity to use our expertise in the cheese category to create a delicious plant-based alternative.”  

Canada-based Saputo, which is one of the world’s largest dairy companies, definitely has traditional cheesemaking expertise. Its brand portfolio includes Frigo, Treasure Cave, Stella, Montchevre and Black Creek, making popular cheddar, mozzarella, Italian, chevre and specialty cheeses.

Saputo has been laying the groundwork for this launch for a while. Last year, it acquired Bute Island Foods, a U.K.-based plant-based cheese company that makes the British Sheese brand. In the release announcing the deal, Saputo CEO and Board Chair Lino Saputo said that the Bute Island deal helps the dairy company in “putting innovation at the forefront of our priorities.”

While the plant-based cheese sector has been around for years, Saputo is only the second big cheese company to enter it. The other big traditional and plant-based cheese player is Bel Group. In 2019, the French company committed to produce a plant-based version of each of its popular cheese brands — all of which are headed to the U.S. market — and launched plant-based brand Nurishh last year.