While FORA founders and Brooklyn-based entrepreneurs Andrew McClure and Aidan Altman are building a brand around what is arguably a minor technical ingredient (aquafaba serves as an emulsifier in Faba Butter), it's not an opportunistic exercise, as the aquafaba is key both to the brand's functionality but also to its clean label credentials, claimed Altman.
"A lot of those companies [producing butter alternatives] will use stabilizers and gums,* whereas aquafaba has been our magical tool to allow our oils and fats to blend together to get a really delicious dairy-like product."
The product, which Altman claims cooks, spreads and melts like dairy butter, has a "grass-fed butter high end artisanal flavor, really nice notes of saltiness but also a sweetness from the coconut oils."
While the functionality of Faba Butter appeals to vegan chefs and foodservice buyers, the branding also offers something different in the retail environment, where consumers are looking for alternatives to some "tired" legacy brands, claimed Altman.
"We want to be the new clean label product for Millennial minded consumers."
FORA is “going to be working with a large-scale national co-packer,” to support a spring launch, said Altman, who co-founded snack foods company Spice Foods in 2016, while McClure spent two years at investment banking firm Houlihan Lokey after graduating, covering deals involving brands from Stacy’s Pita Chips to Angie’s BOOMCHICKAPOP.
“We’ve been speaking with many large scale retail and foodservice accounts and we’re about to do a pre-seed fund raising round to support this campaign.”
Standards of identity: 'Our goal is that the dairy butter companies will see value in us and won't see value in suing us'
But isn't FORA taking a risk with the brand name - Faba Butter - given that it doesn't meet the federal standard of identity for butter (which stipulates 80% milk fat) or some state-specific labeling rules?
Or does the fact that other plant-based brands such as Miyoko's Kitchen (which describes its nut-based product as 'cultured vegan butter') are doing the same without prompting FDA scrutiny, suggest that with appropriate disclaimers/qualifiers, brands are safe to proceed? (Meanwhile, civil litigation challenging food brands over the use of dairy-derived terms in plant-based products such as 'almondmilk' or 'soymilk' has not made much progress in the courts.)
"We've spoken with many lawyers about this and it's kind of a gray area..." said Altman, who noted that FORA uses the term 'plant-based' on front of pack and the lid, while the FDA has recently indicated that it plans to look again at standards of identity.
He also noted that Unilever had sued Just Mayo maker Hampton Creek over its use of the term 'mayo' to describe an egg-free product (the standard of identity for mayonnaise requires eggs) but later chose to withdraw the lawsuit following a barrage of bad publicity over what was seen as 'corporate bullying.'
"Eventually our goal is that the dairy butter companies will see value in us and won't see value in suing us."
Read our recent interview with Altman HERE.
*Editor’s note on ‘stabilizers and gums’: FoodNavigator-USA has gone through the ingredients lists of leading buttery spread products under brands including I can’t believe it’s not butter, Smart Balance, Country Crock, Land O Lakes, and Melt Organics and none of them contains gums. However, selected brands feature monoglycerides of fatty acids, which function as an emulsifer and stabilizer, plus colors, flavors and preservatives that are not in the Faba Butter formulation.