Irish Butter Kerrygold has Conquered America’s Kitchens

In 1999 the Irish Dairy Board, which had been selling butter and cheese abroad under the Kerrygold label for almost four decades, shipped a few thousand foil-wrapped bricks of butter to the U.S. The group didn’t have high hopes. American farmers produced more than enough milk to go around, and tariffs on imported butter, along with the cost of shipping it, meant that Kerrygold would be substantially more expensive than it was in Ireland. On top of that, the U.S. grocery industry was notoriously fragmented. With so many grocers to woo, penetrating the market would be an arduous process.

Twenty years on, Kerrygold is America’s second-best-selling brand of butter—a result that surprises even the team that pushed to introduce it here in the first place. (Land O’Lakes, the domestic brand that’s dominated shelves since 1921, holds the top spot.) If you’ve visited a supermarket dairy aisle recently, you’re likely to have seen it: gold (salted) and silver (unsalted) foil blocks featuring an illustration of a grazing cow, with the Kerrygold name in a Celtic font. It’s often displayed alongside Plugrá, a European-style butter produced in the U.S. by the Dairy Farmers of America Inc.Lurpak, imported from Denmark; and Président, a French offering—all of which come in half-pound slabs, priced at a premium to Land O’Lakes and other mainstream domestic brands.

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