Butter boards had an absolute chokehold on TikTok foodies in mid-late 2022. One could not scroll for 30 minutes without coming across softened butter spread across a wooden board, drizzled with hot honey, sprinkled with flaky sea salt, and whatever edible flowers, jams, or spreads the butter board chef desired, served with little toasts and crusty bread, of course. The original viral butter board TikTok comes from creator Justine Doiron, otherwise known as @justine_snacks.

Since her initial post, which also credited chef Joshua McFadden who has been making these boards for nearly 10 years, the butter board evolved into myriad other "board" ideas including the buttercream board, peanut butter board, and beyond. While it seems like a super innocent food trend that burned bright for a few months, some TikTokers seem to think the original intentions of its creation were for marketing. 

The Butter Board Conspiracy

In fall 2022, a few TikTok user jokingly shared videos about how butter boards were secret marketing campaigns. "No one needs this much butter," said Dan James. Additionally, @mattieunofficial believes that a dairy farmer was behind all this. 

However, user @prettyrabid dove into the butter board conspiracy and how "big dairy" made money through the trend.

According to both the TikTok video and multiple articles, the butter board creator Justine is a part of Dairy Management Inc.'s "Dairy Dream Team." 

According to a U.S. Dairy press release from Oct. 14, 2022, the "Dairy Dream Team" is made up of "chefs, recipe developers, “foodies,” gamers and lifestyle influencers who have a combined 25 million social media followers. They are joined by another 100-plus influencers who work with state and regional checkoff teams and are tasked with presenting unique recipes and ways dairy can be enjoyed by consumers, particularly Gen Z (ages 9 to 24)."

They further add in the press release that, "The butter board video, produced by 'Dream Team' member Justine Doiron, features multiple sticks of soft butter mixed with other ingredients, such as vegetables, in a fashion similar to a charcuterie board. Dorian’s post went viral, inspiring people to post their own butter board versions on TikTok, Instagram and other social media channels, and the hashtag #butterboard has appeared in more than 5,000 posts."

TikTok user @prettyrabid also created a video examining how Dairy Management Inc. is in place to increase dairy sales across the United States. 

Further in the press release, it's noted that the butter board did increase sales. "With recent 2021 per capita data indicating a strong consumption performance in butter overall, there has been a surge corresponding with the butter board craze," it reads.

It seems like this is less a conspiracy, and rather well-documented proof that influencer social media marketing is working. However, it seems like everyone who jumped on the trend was totally unaware that this was part of a bigger campaign. However, original video creator Justine Doiron commented on @prettyrabid's first video about butter boards. 

Justine Doiron's responses & other criticism to the video

Underneath the video, Justine shared a series of comments. 

She said: "Hi! I’m super transparent with my ads, what happened was I pitched the butter board to the brand and they politely passed. You’ll see the video RIGHT before was a properly disclosed ad, which I was compensated for. Butter board was not an ad, nor was it orchestrated. The brand actually didn’t want it, but I already had it filmed (3/3)"

Photo via TikTok

TikTok creator Liz Moody also commented on the video that, "[butter board] was in josh mcfadden’s cookbook years ago, justine credited him in the video."

She continued, "i’m all about being aware of marketing and capitalism but this is fear mongering — trends happen. was emily mariko’s bowl sponsored by big salmon?"

While Justine may have not actively been paid specifically for this video, it seems like "big dairy" is taking credit for the butter boom. 

Shortly after @prettyrabid's video series caught attention within the foodie community, Justine made her own video to clear up any confusion. 

Justine has worked with Undeniably Dairy and made one butter video. This video was released one day prior to the butter board TikTok and was clearly marked as an ad. Additionally, Justine did not make any money from butter board content and actively turned down working with other large companies.

In fact, Undeniably Dairy was aware of her idea for making a butter board and declined to use the concept. However, the press release mentioned and linked above is "highly inaccurate," Justine says. The press release was not run by her team, it did not spell her last name correctly, and it misrepresented the fact that she is merely an independent contractor, for which they cannot take credit for her work. Justine and her management have asked for a corrected reissue of the original press release. 

"My reputation is that serious, disclosing ads is that serious," Justine says. "It should never be murky, it should never be sneaky, it should never be strategic, and you see a lot of shady stuff on TikTok."

Overall, influencer and celebrity marketing is not a new concept, and we will likely be seeing sponsored food content from creators and celebrities time and time again. According to Legacy Marketing: "Influencer marketing in the food industry has a 10x higher ROI than traditional advertising," which is a major stat to consider for companies with dwindling ad dollars.

As far as the butter board conspiracy...this seems to go a lot deeper than just a woman with a lot of butter on hand. However, we are not knocking Justine. We love the butter board trend ourselves and are huge fans of her many pasta recipes and the like. Individual influencers are not to blame for the sins of large corporations and federal agencies.