Reduced Fat Butter

The first reduced-fat butter (50% fat), called Light Butter, was introduced in the United States by the Lipton Co. in the mid 1980s. The product was withdrawn due to FDA objections of not meeting Standards of Identity for nomenclature. Also, the product contained stabilizers not allowed in the Standard of Identity for butter. In the late 1980s, Ault, Inc. introduced a reduced-fat butter (39% fat) called Pure and Simple, which contained no unusual additives (56). Unfortunately, this all-natural product had severe negatives: it had a short shelf life, experienced moisture seepage, and lacked the highly desirable butter notes. In 1990, Land O'Lakes, Inc. launched its Light Butter (52% fat), which contained emulsifiers, added vitamin A, and preservatives. The FDA was in the process of establishing standards for reduced-fat products at this time and no objection was registered. The new standards were established in 1993 (57), which automatically required Land O'Lakes to reformulate to a 40% butterfat content; it did so and relaunched. The product was a success and has established dominance in the U.S. market.

Manufacturers have experienced many problems with the production of low-fat butter (58). Low-fat butter cannot be manufactured in conventional continuous butter makers. The technology of producing low-fat butter and margarine products is similar to that of ordinary margarine production, and it has nothing in common with modern butter production. These low-calorie water-in-fat emulsions have such a dense package of water droplets that unwanted phase inversion during processing and/or structural weak points in the product can occur, which may, for example, severely limit the microbiological shelf life. The scraped-surface heat exchanger type of machine is preferred for production of low-fat products.

Butterlike products with reduced-fat content are manufactured in several countries. Stabilizers, milk and soy proteins, sodium albumin or caseinate, fatty acids, and other additives are used. A product is now available on a commercial scale in Russia that has the following composition: 45% milk fat, 10% nonfat solids, and 45% moisture. It has a shelf life of 10 days at 5°C (59).

Decreasing the energy content of a diet has clearly been the motive behind those milk fat products in which the fat content is approximately half that of normal butter. Although these products can no longer be called butter according to international standards, they are nonetheless often called low-calorie butter, half-butter, or similar names. A large number of patents have been obtained for these products, because raising the water content to nearly 50% in the manufacture of butterlike spreads requires considerably higher emulsifying properties than the manufacture of normal butter. In addition, the emulsion must often be stabilized with additives. In some countries, a low-fat butter (40% total fat) containing vegetable oil has been designated as Minarine, but Minarine can also be prepared using only butter fat (6).

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