I can’t believe it’s not … cheaper than 50 quid: the UK’s poshest butter
Even among the soaring cost of spreads, one offering stands out, priced at £55 – or £105 with a dish
Sublime Butter’s No. 78, with ham, sherry and prawns. Photograph: Sublime
It has long been a kitchen staple in Britain but with prices soaring, butter is fast becoming a luxury item.
Now an unsavoury milestone has been passed, with a 150g block arriving on shop shelves with a price tag of more than £50.
It isn’t an everyday sort of spread. Sublime Butter’s No 78, infused with Cinco Jotas Ibérico ham, carabineros prawns, pedro ximénez sherry and Spanish saffron, is on sale in farm shops, delis and high-end butchers for £55 – or £105 when purchased with its own handmade dish.
Chris Mair, the founder of Sublime Butter, in Richmond, west London, is under no doubt that the price will be hard to swallow for many. The premium butter is one of a number in the company’s Ridiculous range. Its lobster and crab flavoured No 55, which retails at a mere £38 or £95 with a dish, was declared one of the world’s finest foods last October.
But the marmalade-dropping price of the latest butter is reflective of a wider trend that is affecting brands all the way down the price scale.
The Office for National Statistics reported this week that butter and margarine prices were up by 34% on average year on year, one of the most significant increases on the consumer price index, just behind air fares (36%) and fuel oil (66%).
The spiralling prices are a result of a series of blows to the butter business. There has been sluggish global production of milk, with farmers blaming environmental regulations that limit herd sizes in Europe and New Zealand, while Australian producers have struggled with drought. Meanwhile, the war in Ukraine has led to a shortage of wheat and fertilisers and seen energy costs soar.
Mair, who sources his butter from a farm in Somerset and sells in farm shops, butchers and delis, said that while he was having to increase his prices, movements in the wider market were actually making him more competitive.
Aldi recently started putting security tags on its Lurpak, with a 1kg tub costing £9.35. Sublime’s garlic and herb butter costs £4.35 for around 200g or £4.50 for one infused with truffle, parmesan and black pepper.
“We have been able to keep our price raises relatively contained and, from our perspective, we are a bit less of a premium product than we were six months ago because if you look at the price of Lurpak and the supermarket brands we are actually quite comparable to them,” said Mair. “On the one hand we have become more competitive from a pricing perspective but the footfall at butchers, farm shops and premium independents has decreased because people want to save a few pounds.”
Mair, who has raised his prices by about 5% over the year, said he hoped that the high costs of imported goods might prompt British consumers to look at home-produced products. “I try and look at it from a positive perspective,” he said.
For gourmands with cash to spare, the Ridiculous No 78 is said to be “bespeckled with acute pockets of Spanish carabinero prawns; prawns so deeply meaty and scarlet, they are known to be closer to lobster in their taste and plate appeal”.
The ingredients are then “deglazed with a festive glug of pedro ximénez sherry – reminiscent of caramelised dates and figs; with the gentle aromas of coffee and tobacco. And for colour and vividity, we have chosen to seal this divine affair with the finest saffron available to humankind”. The butter has also won awards although it was only formally launched a few weeks ago.