“For 1 tbsp of butter – and let’s be real; most people use more than that when cooking or baking – there is 7g of saturated fat, 0.5g of trans fats, and 31 mg of cholesterol,” explains Dotsie Bausch, Executive Director of Switch4Good, a not-for-profit organization that works to raise awareness about some of the health concerns associated with consuming too much dairy.

“Based on a 2,000 calorie diet that is 35{85424e366b324f7465dc80d56c21055464082cc00b76c51558805a981c8fcd63} of your daily recommended saturated fat, 10{85424e366b324f7465dc80d56c21055464082cc00b76c51558805a981c8fcd63} of your daily recommended cholesterol and 100{85424e366b324f7465dc80d56c21055464082cc00b76c51558805a981c8fcd63} of daily recommended trans fat. Now, what does all this fat and cholesterol do to a person? Well, we know that it cripples our arteries, slows down our blood flow, leading to inflammation, plaque formation, and heart disease.” She cites a 2018 study published in Laboratory Investigation which not only found changes in size and shape of red blood cells just one hour after consuming a high-fat meal, but also changes in immune cell function, which may set the stage for inflammation, plaque formation and ultimately heart disease.

This was a good time for margarine to step in – but this, too, soon got a bad name for its trans-fat content. Trans-fats raise the bad cholesterol in our bodies and lower levels of good cholesterol, increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke and type two diabetes.

The industry adapted, and newer margarines tend to be free from trans fats and are lower in saturated fat. However, margarine still suffers from a lingering image problem, leaving a gap in the market for another alternative that has much better public perception.

The US plant-based butter industry is worth $198 million and is growing rapidly. “Between 2017 and 2019, plant-based butter dollars sales increased 15{85424e366b324f7465dc80d56c21055464082cc00b76c51558805a981c8fcd63}, significantly outpacing conventional butter sales growth,” says Caroline Bushnell, associate director for corporate engagement at The Good Food Institute. “Since COVID-19 began, we’ve seen plant-based product sales growth exceed that of animal-based products, both in meat and dairy categories.

Due to COVID-19 supply chain disruptions, some milk that is used to make butter is now being dumped. As is the case with plant-based meat, plant-based dairy supply chains are much better poised to respond in real-time to changing market conditions and are not vulnerable to the type of disruptions inherent in industrial animal agriculture.”

These vegan spreads are based on various ingredients, including nut oils and avocado oils. ForA: Butter uses cocoa butter, what ForA describes as its “main fat source that enables the product’s superior functionality.”

There are no major differences between margarine and plant-based butters, but the latter makes it clear to consumers there’s absolutely no animal produce in their products. While margarines are made up of vegetable fats, some include milk products. One of the main differences between plant-based alternatives and butter and margarine are the social and environmental values that come with the former.

“There are multitudinous personal values and unprecedented eco pressures shaping our culture, and those that are manifesting in food choices lean toward plant-based eco-relevant options. Plant-based butters are not emerging in isolation,” says Jim Richards, CEO of Milkadamia.

Let’s be clear – neither animal- and plant-based butter nor margarine are particularly good for our health. By definition, they consist of at least 80{85424e366b324f7465dc80d56c21055464082cc00b76c51558805a981c8fcd63} fat, so any plant-based alternatives aren’t exactly going to have the health benefits of a salad. But there are some health benefits to plant-based butters over dairy ones and margarines, including lower levels of saturated fat and no trans fats.

Kite Hill’s PlantBased Butter Alternative, launching nationwide this summer, is made with cultured almond milk, sunflower, coconut and olive oils and contains less saturated fat per serving than traditional butter. And Upfield Group’s plant-based butter Flora, which is available in Europe, is made with sunflower, linseed and rapeseed oils and has no trans fats. Flora Original claims to have at least 67{85424e366b324f7465dc80d56c21055464082cc00b76c51558805a981c8fcd63} less saturated fat than conventional butter.

Earlier this year, researchers found that higher intake of dairy milk was associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. While this looked at milk instead of butter, some studies have observed the effects of butter specifically.

One review of studies found that 11 meta-analyses showed increased risk of gastric cancer and dairy products including butter, and 29 meta-analysis found the same for colorectal cancer.

Most studies looking at different cancers however found no significant increased risk from butter consumption, and all studies were observational, so couldn’t prove cause and effect.

But it’s not just what plant-based butters don’t contain that matters – it’s also what dairy butter does contain. More than 10{85424e366b324f7465dc80d56c21055464082cc00b76c51558805a981c8fcd63} of Americans could be lactose intolerant, and across the world, this statistic increase to 60{85424e366b324f7465dc80d56c21055464082cc00b76c51558805a981c8fcd63}. This is because they have not inherited the gene that can break down lactose efficiently, and can cause symptoms including stomach cramps, nausea and bloatedness, among other symptoms.

Plant-based butters can be better for the planet, too, and many emerging brands are making sustainability part of their ethos. For example, Milkadamia’s Butta-Bing Butta-Bloom uses macadamia oil that comes from regenerative farming methods, which generally results in healthier soil.

“Broadly speaking, producing plant-based products versus dairy products generates less greenhouse gas emissions and encourages more responsible use of land, water, fuel and fertilizer,” says David Haines, chief executive of Upfield Group B.V.

In a study investigating the environmental impact of animal-derived products compared to their plant-based options, scientists studied Upfield’s margarines and spreads. They concluded that plant-based spreads have a lower impact than dairy butter in terms of climate, water and land usage.

Scientists found an average of 7.3lbs of CO2 produced for every 2.2lbs of plant-based butter produced, compared to a 26.7lbs of CO2 equivalent for dairy-based spreads, which is more than three times as much. Making the brand’s Flora spread uses up to 70{85424e366b324f7465dc80d56c21055464082cc00b76c51558805a981c8fcd63} less water and emits up to less than 50{85424e366b324f7465dc80d56c21055464082cc00b76c51558805a981c8fcd63} of the carbon dioxide compared to dairy butter.

“Choosing a plant-based diet is one of the best things you can do for the environment as plant-based diets are kind to the earth and kind to animals,” says Rob Leibowitz, chief executive of Kite Hill. “And plants are the first ingredients in our plant-based butter alternative.”

Similarly, the process of making Miyoko’s Creamery’s plant-based butter has been found to produce up to 98{85424e366b324f7465dc80d56c21055464082cc00b76c51558805a981c8fcd63} fewer greenhouse gas emissions than dairy butter.

While the science is compelling, plant-based butter manufacturers are concerned about the ongoing label wars in the U.S and beyond. The dairy and meat industries are rallying against plant-based manufacturers, and argue that their use of “burger,” “milk” and other words on labelling is misleading. So unlike a hot knife through butter, maintaining market share will not come easy, and plant-based companies are eager to defend themselves.

Miyoko Schinner, founder and chief executive of Miyoko’s Creamery, says the dairy industry feels threatened by consumers searching for non-dairy alternatives. She says the argument that customers are confused by labels is “ridiculous.”

“No one is confused by ‘peanut butter’ or ‘coconut butter’ when they see those products. We see these attempts as violations our First Amendment rights, and we are fighting back against this and calling it out for what it is — industry groups lobbying for their own personal gain and interests, rather than for the interests of consumers.”

This is history repeating itself. Margarine has been in the US since the 1870s, but manufacturers’ decision to make it look so similar to butter soon proved controversial. By the early 1900s, 32 US states ruled that margarine had to change its color – mostly to pink – so customers could differentiate it from butter.

Richards argues that the dairy industry is now attempting to hold back inevitable cultural change.

“Positive cultural changes are coming with irresistible force, they include people taking responsibility and embracing stewardship of this earth, seeking to regenerate rather than exploit,” he says. “There are bigger things afoot here than dairy.”

Schinner says, “There has been a lot of talk for several years now about the negative impacts of the meat industry on the environment, health and more, but for some reason the dairy industry has gotten a pass, even though it is in many ways even more destructive to the environment and to animals.”

She adds that there’s now an increasing understanding of the effects of the dairy industry on the environment.

And as more people turn to dairy alternatives – more than a third of Americans are consuming more plant-based foods, according to a 2017 a survey – plant-based butter brands are targeting them.

“Consumers are increasingly demanding healthy, natural and more sustainable alternatives to dairy products,” says Haines. “And they don’t want to compromise on taste or how these products work in their recipes.”

UpField Group’s Country Crock’s plant-based butters are tested by culinary professionals, who make sure the spreads spread, cook and bake like dairy.

“We selected plant fats and oils to mimic the way dairy butter behaves at different temperatures and in all its different usages such as: on toast, making grilled cheese sandwiches, or in baking pies and cakes,” Haines says.

When it’s released later this year, Kite Hill Plant-Based Butter Alternative will be sold with the other plant-based butter alternatives, Leibowitz says, which is often next to dairy butter.

“We’re starting with three varieties and will later expand flavors, textures, and formats as there is similar consumer need for variety in plant-based butter as there is in dairy butter,” he says.

Despite the challenges these brands face, plant-based butters have consumer interests on their side – as well as health and environmental advantages.

“The world is coming to understand that a shift to plant-based foods is inevitable as we continue to realize the benefits to human health, the health of the planet and the animals who share it with us,” said Kees Kruythoff, Chairman and CEO the LiveKindly co, which recently announced that it will move the world toward plant-forward eating through the opening of $200 million investment, as well as brand acquisitions in similarly aligned companies, and an online advocacy platform. Alternatives to meat, dairy and egg products will become the norm and plant-based butters are one of the new hot products in the space.”

In other words, label wars may come and go, but plant-based butter seems here to stay.

Original Source: https://www.forbes.com/