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Spreading the joy: Australia’s growing taste for butter

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Aust), July 2015-June 2016, n=6,138. Base: Australian grocery buyers 14+

Margarine or butter? It’s a debate that has been raging for decades, between two very different schools of medical/nutritional thought. And according to the latest findings from Roy Morgan Research, butter is currently winning the argument, being purchased by far more Australian grocery buyers than margarine or dairy spreads/butter blends in an average four weeks.

In the 12 months to June 2016, 54.7% of Australian grocery buyers 14+ purchased butter in an average four-week period: a substantial increase on the 47.2% who bought it in the 12 months to June 2012. Meanwhile, 44.6% of grocery buyers bought margarine, down from 56.0% in 2012 (a 20% decline); and 30.4% purchased dairy spreads/butter blends (pretty much unchanged from 30.1%).

The butter boom: Australian grocery buyers’ changing habits


Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Aust), July 2015-June 2016, n=6,138. Base: Australian grocery buyers 14+

As the figures above suggest, many grocery buyers purchase more than one of these products in the same four-week period. Nearly one in five (18.5%) of grocery buyers purchase both butter and margarine, 16.5% buy both butter and dairy spread/butter blend, 11.5% purchase margarine and dairy spread/butter blend, and 8.7% buy all three!

Most popular brands

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 grocery-buyers who purchase butter in an average four weeks opt for a supermarket brand, putting Western Star (19.9%) in second spot; and 18% of grocery buyers who purchase margarine in an average four weeks also choose home-brand, ahead of the 10.0% who choose Nuttelex. Devondale Dairy Soft (18.1%) dominates the butter-blend/dairy-spread market, with supermarket brands in third spot (12.1%).

Top-selling margarine, butter, and butter blend/dairy spread brands


Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Aust), July 2015-June 2016, n=5,046. Base: Australian grocery buyers 14+who purchased margarine/butter/dairy spreads in last 4 weeks

Norman Morris, Industry Communications Director, Roy Morgan Research, says:

“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. 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.

“Certainly, Roy Morgan data shows that the trend towards butter over margarine continues to build, with more grocery buyers choosing the former over the latter. However, it also suggests that many Australians are hedging their bets to a certain extent, 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), but margarine consumption tracks steadily upwards past the age of 35, peaking with folks aged 65 or older. This may be due to older Australians still remembering when margarine was promoted as the healthier alternative of the two, or simply a cautionary measure to cover their bases. After all, we generally become more health conscious as we get older – out of necessity, if not choice! (The fact that two of the top-selling butter brands have reduced salt content also speaks volumes…)

“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 that only Roy Morgan Single Source can provide.”

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About Roy Morgan

Roy Morgan is the largest independent Australian research company, with offices throughout Australia, as well as in Indonesia, the United States and the United Kingdom. A full service research organisation specialising in omnibus and syndicated data, Roy Morgan has over 70 years’ experience in collecting objective, independent information on consumers.

Margin of Error

The margin of error to be allowed for in any estimate depends mainly on the number of interviews on which it is based. Margin of error gives indications of the likely range within which estimates would be 95% likely to fall, expressed as the number of percentage points above or below the actual estimate. Allowance for design effects (such as stratification and weighting) should be made as appropriate.

Sample Size

Percentage Estimate


25% or 75%

10% or 90%

5% or 95%