Is there enough cream for Christmas?

Published 29 November 16

In fat# terms, over the last 12 months, sales of potted cream at retail level represented around 31%* of the total disappearance of cream in the UK. The remaining cream was either exported or used in further food processing.

Normally the UK is nearly self-sufficient in cream, although in the latest quarter, Jul-Sep 2016, the self-sufficiency level dropped to 94%. This was driven by an increase in consumption of potted cream at retail level, as well as an 18% drop in cream production. The UK did record an increase in imports of cream, which has partially offset the drop in production. As a result, in butterfat terms, the proportion of cream that was sold on the retail shelves as potted cream rose in Jul-Sep 2016 to 34%*.

The chart below shows the availability and disappearance of fat in cream in the UK, by quarter. The availability of butterfat in cream has dropped each quarter for the last three quarters.

UK fat in cream balance Nov16

Source: AHDB, Kantar Worldpanel, Defra

During the run up to Christmas, consumption of cream through retailers increases, such that the Oct-Dec quarter last year saw 15% more sales (an extra 1.6k tonnes of fat) than Jul-Sep. This was satisfied from a similar increase at the production end, with UK processors reacting to the seasonal increase in demand by producing more cream. At the same time, we saw a reduction in butter production in order to free up the fat for cream.

This year, it would seem that the uplift in cream production needed to deliver the additional Christmas demand is still achievable, despite lower milk volumes. This is because the uplift from retail sales is still relatively small compared with the overall level of fat in the market. However, it will rely on fat being diverted from butter manufacturing to cream manufacturing in order to ensure there is sufficient product on the shelf.


# The analysis has been undertaken in tonnes of butterfat, in order to manage the differing types of cream that are available to consumers.

* Kgs of fat sold through retail cream sale divided by total kg of fat available in cream in the UK (production of cream plus imports of cream)