Butter recorded an improved performance in 2019 with positive retail volume sales after fluctuating demand over the review period, supported by an improved reputation and slowing growth of its average unit price. The latter had experienced skyrocketing prices in 2017 following a butter shortage in Europe which severely impacted sales in Lithuania, with prices almost doubling.
Despite holding marginal higher retail volume share within the overall category, demand for margarine and spreads continued to decline in 2019, as the category continued to struggle due to its reputation as being less healthy and more processed compared to butter. Originally, margarine benefited from being marketed as containing less fat but the use of preservatives and additives by some products is pushing consumers towards brands that have more of a natural positioning, for which more affluent consumers are willing to pay, despite the much cheaper prices offered by margarine.
Butter with 82% fat content continued to gain in share while spreads produced from vegetable oil are losing interest, even amongst consumers. This is due to a general negative shift in consumers’ perception regarding dairy products with added vegetable oil.
The positively performing category of butter continued to be dominated by local manufacturers, Pieno Zvaigzdes AB, Rokiskio Suris AB and Žemaitijos Pienas AB. Lithuania benefits from strong dairy production and an abundant fresh milk supply, resulting in the prevailing belief amongst local consumers that Lithuanian butter offers better quality than imported brands, with the latter continuing to struggle to gain share.
Players within the struggling categories of cooking fats and margarine and spreads experienced varying performances in 2019. Saulute by Žemaitijos Pienas AB strengthened its leadership of the latter but recorded declining sales in line with the general performance of the category, while high fat content brand Venta from Pieno Zvaigzdes AB continued to gain ground and record a positive performance.
Private label continued to gain value share within butter and spreads with Lidl Lietuva UAB and Maxima LT UAB being highly placed behind branded producers. These retailers are able to offer a wide range of products that target lower-income consumers.
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