Don’t Call it Margarine: Trader Joe’s is Spreading Out the Vegan Butter

Trader Joe's is Spreading Out Vegan Butter
image/Miyoko’s Kitchen

Vegan butter substitutes have an image problem. Often compared to the poster-product for unhealthy processed foods, Margarine, which has become a dirty word in the healthy food world, nondairy butter products often suffer the same misfortune.

The mainstay during our decades of low-fat obsession, margarine and butter alternative are now eschewed, rightfully so, for being sources of unhealthy trans fats and refined oils connected with scores of health problems including heart disease and obesity. In virtually every other category, though, plant-based vegan substitute products are healthier than their animal-based counterparts, boasting clean protein, heart-healthy fiber, and plentiful antioxidants. The exception being those butter-like spreads trying to distance themselves from the M-word.

But for vegans who shop at Trader Joe’s: there’s now a truly healthy vegan butter option, aptly named VeganButter, from Miyoko’s Kitchen. It’s now being sold in the dairy cases of Trader Joe’s locations in Utah, California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Idaho, and Nevada.

Founded by chef and author Miyoko Schinner, Miyoko’s Kitchen produces an artisanal line of plant-based cheeses and the VeganButter, which launched to rave reviews last spring.

Unlike other nondairy spreads and those that may use palm oil or other refined oils common in margarines, Miyoko’s relies on a blend of coconut oil and cashew milk for the traditional European-style creamy nondairy butter that melts and spreads just like dairy butter but without the allergy risk, health issues, or animal suffering.

“Getting into Trader Joe’s is like getting a stamp of approval that makes your product ‘special’ in the eyes of many consumers,” Schinner told VegNews. “It’s a way of increasing visibility of veganism through fun and innovative items that pique the interest of even mass market consumers.”

The product pick is a bit of a surprise as Miyoko’s Kitchen is best known for its wide range of aged cashew-based cheeses like the Double-Cream Chive, Rustic Alpine, and Farmhouse (the Loire Valley in a Fig Leaf is a must-try). The company’s VeganMozz–a nondairy mozarella cheese that melts just like dairy cheese has quicky become a cult favorite for its clean ingredients and superior performance compared to other vegan cheeses.

Keeping prices low, Trader Joe’s is beloved for its private-label brand of knock-off products (and fabulous prices on wine), yet it makes exceptions for branded products, typically for best-sellers like Clif Bars or Nature’s Path cereals (and fabulous wine). But the chain wanted to bring on the VeganButter, which only launched last March, without branding it under the Trader Joe’s label, despite it not having the sales or brand recognition of competitors like Earth Balance’s buttery spreads (also sold at Trader Joe’s).

Miyoko’s Kitchen, while still a small start-up, has already garnered strong brand recognition and scores of devoted fans. The company reported a 400 percent increase in sales last year and moved from an 8,000 square-foot facility to a new production facility boasting more than 26,000 square feet.

VeganButter will be available for $4.99 at participating Trader Joe’s.

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Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites OrganicAuthority.com and EcoSalon.com, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better. www.jillettinger.com.