Sales of this surprising kitchen staple have been booming during the pandemic

We all remember the shortages at the beginning of lockdown — all the toilet paper and cleaning products totally gone from grocery store shelves. But here's one unexpected product that remains super popular during the pandemic even now, roughly eight months in: butter

As Beth Ford, CEO of dairy giant Land O'Lakes, told Bloomberg Quint they expect butter sales for 2020 to come out to 275 million to 300 million pounds, up 20 percent from their usual yearly sales total. This number is especially surprising given how COVID-19 initially affected butter sales. There was a serious plunge at first, as restaurants closed up shop. After all, restaurant purchases usually make up almost a fifth of Land O'Lakes' total butter sales, so the closings were a major hit. 

Now, however, sales have surged, Ford explained. The company has to double the size of butter cases to keep up with the demand. They're selling retailers 36-pound cases instead of their usual 18-pounders. 

The dairy industry has stress baking to thank for the butter boom

Ford explained to the Star Tribune that the increase in butter and dairy sales more generally has a lot to do with the fact that, since lockdown, many more people have been cooking and baking at home. Land O'Lakes' consumer-facing products like its butter have gained popularity much more than the raw ingredients it typically sells to businesses, so the company has pivoted. "We shifted capacity where we could and shifted milk where we could so we didn't put milk on the ground," Ford said. "Our team was very creative to come up with outlets for the milk and new products at the same time."

Ford is very unsure how the business is going to fare this holiday season. After all, many people will be steering clear of large gatherings to avoid the COVID-19 risk. Whether that means more people will be buying butter to prepare food for their small group's celebration or whether it means far fewer people will be going all out on holiday cooking and baking remains to be seen.