Study: Smaller fat particles make cold butter easier to spread
- A team of food scientists in Australia found reducing the size of fat globules in milk changes the consistency of cold butter, making it easier to spread. The change also makes low-fat cream easier to whip.
- The researchers are exploring the use of nanoemulsion technology in dairy food applications, which is emulsified oil and water systems with droplets ranging in the billionths of a meter, according to the Dairy Reporter.
- The dairy publication said the researchers are working to identify new techniques that can help the dairy industry create new products with minimal cost.
Should dairies adopt the techniques identified by food scientists at The University of Queensland, it's possible that consumers could benefit from a safer and more convenient product that would remain spreadable even though it just came from the refrigerator.
Those who appreciate butter for being more "real" despite the relatively high fat level —and find it tastier than margarine or other non-dairy spreads — are aware of its tendency to soften or melt if left on the counter or harden, making it harder to spread, if kept refrigerated. This could be good news for butter users who continue to use the product or those that have turned away from the dairy spread in recent years. Butter makers could tout the new found characteristics as yet another reason consumers, who once shunned the dairy product, should use it in their favorite foods.
Butter consumption is skyrocketing, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture projecting an 8% increase this year, according to Bloomberg. That amounts to 940,000 metric tons, which is the most in 40 years. The dairy product has found a resurgence among people who not only like the taste but are attracted to its perception as a better alternative to margarine and transfats.
Two years ago, McDonald's started using real butter to grill breakfast items and for spreading on toasted menu offerings such as English muffins, biscuits and bagels. The company had previously used liquid margarine but decided to make the switch to enhance the perceived quality of its food. Companies also have turned to using butter in their products. Bulletproof 360 recently raised more than $19 million in Series B funding for its Bulletproof Coffee, which is blended with grass-fed butter. In another indicator of the declining margarine market, Unilever put its Country Crock and I Can't Believe It's Not Butter brands up for sale earlier this year.
"Butter has a more natural image. I think people have always been a bit suspicious about margarine," Bonnie Liebman, director of nutrition at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, told the Associated Press earlier this year.
After years of struggles, butter finally appears to have regained its mojo. As consumers use more of the dairy product, it would not be suprising to see additional companies replace margarine with butter as they cater to the public's growing demand for more real, natural foods.