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A 'Perfect' Vegan Butter Replica Wants To Disrupt Both Big Dairy And The Margarine Industry

The current lineup of margarines you find in stores is typically lacking in one way or another. They can taste too much like olive oil, not have the creamy texture of standard butter, or are often good for nothing except spreading on toast.

A new startup with an innovative vegan butter substitute is looking to fix those issues while disrupting not just the dairy industry, but its margarine competitors as well.

vegan butter
Photo courtesy of Fora Foods

Fora Foods co-founders Aidan Altman and Andrew McClure created their novel Faba Butter with one goal in mind: to be a true one-to-one butter replacer in terms of taste, "mouthfeel," and functionality. By doing so, they feel they could have a significant environmental impact by reducing the damage that both margarine and butter do to global ecosystems.

The idea is to "shift your everyday flexitarian from purchasing a dairy butter to a non-dairy butter that's produced sustainably," Altman told Foodbeast.

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By moving away from regular butter, water usage, land usage, and methane emissions sharply decrease. Methane emissions that come from butter production have been a major concern since it is a major contributor to global warming, according to EPA reports.

Margarine also has its own environmental issues, since many are made with palm oil. McClure, Fora's CFO, stressed the detriments of deforestation and rainforest depletion associated with palm oil and margarine production.

To become the sustainable butter replacement they envisioned, McClure and Altman instead opted for coconut oil as the base of their product. Faba Butter, which has a taste and mouthfeel identical to that of the real deal, has one key ingredient that allows Fora to hit all of the necessary sensory aspects: Aquafaba.

Photo courtesy of Fora Foods

Aquafaba is simply the cooking water leftover after boiling chickpeas or other legumes (Fora sources theirs from hummus companies, meaning they're working with chickpea water).

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"The proteins, the starches, and other soluble solids that all travel from the chickpea seed from cooking to the cooking water," McClure explained.

That then gets added into Faba's proprietary blend to be used as a clean label emulsifier, thickener, and binding agent to keep everything from splitting. McClure attributes the aquafaba as the driving force behind their dairy-like mouthfeel, as well as a taste enhancer that highlighted butter notes in the vegan butter.

McClure and Altman also ensured that flavor was a key point for them. Similar to the Impossible Burger's model, they want Faba Butter to be a perfect plant-based replica of an animal product.

"We grew up on delicious Kerrygold butter and we just wanted to recreate that same experience," Altman said. 

They worked with some of New York's biggest culinary names, like executive chef Brad Farmerie from the Michelin-starred Saxon & Parole, to ensure the taste was exactly where it needed to be.

Photo courtesy of Fora Foods

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The combination of chef-backed flavor and aquafaba's unique textural contribution produces a delicious butter alternative that can be used for more than just spreading. On Fora's Instagram, they've been using it to make croissants, donuts, and more to show off its versatility.

According to Altman, all of this allows he and McClure to achieve their social and environmental impact goals while delivering a great-tasting vegan butter to consumers. Altman added:

"We know that in order to achieve our social and environmental missions, we would never be able to do so if our product wasn’t the true one-to-one replacement to dairy butter. So we really have no behavioral shift from purchasing the product to baking with it in terms of taste, mouthfeel, and functionality." 

Fora Foods officially launched as a company this January at the Winter Fancy Foods Show in San Francisco, California. They will first be heading out for food service, so many restaurants both inside and outside of the United States will be carrying Faba Butter in the near future. A Kickstarter will also be launched March 1st to help get a pilot test for retail going, and backers of that fundraiser will be able to get tubs of the vegan butter before anybody else. Altman listed the suggested retail price for a pound of Faba to be $6, making it comparable to the price of Kerrygold butter at Walmart.