Plant Based Butter - Isn't that Margarine?

Recently saw what I thought was butter, on special for $1.74 per 250g ($6.96/kg) next to our usual 500g block ($9.76/kg). I hadn’t see this one before, but it was wrapped up like butter and had the word Butter. Our “warehouse” supermarket often buys & offers product cheaply - discontinued lines, nearing Use-By etc, so the low price didn’t ring any alarm bells and I grabbed 3.

Only when I came to use them I realised they had a margarine taste and were slightly paler. Then I read the label “Plant Based Butter”. It does have 4% buttermilk which is it’s only homage to the real thing. Shouldn’t this be called Margarine?




My other annoyance is that our usual butter is 100% Australian, this “plant based Butter” is less than 21%. The imported “vegetables oils” are not specified. I prefer to support our dairy farmers and milk processors. I felt cheated when I discovered it wasn’t Australian butter. The brand Flora (a margarine manufacturer) should have given me a clue to look closer.


Don’t blame yourself @zackarii,
with so many different types of spreads available it gets more and more confusing to navigate products!

I found it interesting that Flora Margarine is 54% Au ingredients
and 16.5g/100g of saturated fat
and 450mg/100g sodium

compared to butter (W. Star unsalted)
99% Au ingredients,
54.7g/100g sat. fat,
18mg/100g sodium,

it’s either high sat.fats or sodium,
not much of a choice :thinking:


Yes, and appears that the same product is now called …Flora Buttery (rather than Plant based Butter).

I winder if they got themselves in trouble from Food Standards Australia calling a plant based butter, a butter. The definition of butter from FSA is "

butter means a product derived exclusively from milk and products obtained from milk, principally in the form of an emulsion of the type water-in-oil.".

The product only containing only small proportion (less than 10%) buttermilk and predominately vegetable oils does not quality to be called butter.

I even think the use of the term buttery is also crossing the line as it indicates that it is butter.

I suspect that it is at the discount warehouse due to the name change…

These ingredients being:

Vegetable oils (63%) (containing sunflower seed oil (33%), water, salt, milk solids, emulsifiers (471, soy lecithin), preservative (202), food acid (citric acid), vitamins (A, D), natural flavours, natural colour (β-carotene).

compared to Flora Buttery:

Vegetable oils (70%) (containing sunflower seed oil (37%), water, buttermilk (8%), salt, emulsifiers (471, soy lecithin), food acid (lactic acid), natural flavours, preservative (202), vitamins (A, D), natural colour (β-carotene).

In some respects, the Flora Buttery (or Flora Plant Based Butter at 77% vegetable oils) is more margarine than plain margarine as it has a higher content of vegetable oils.


Great to see some common sense.

Now can we all stop labelling Peanut Paste as Peanut Butter so we can all be happy.

Food Standards Australia may be correct in limiting what can be called butter, however if I was Flora, I’d be arguing in court there is a precedent that allows me to call any product ‘Something Butter’ because FSA are not consistently enforcing their own requirements.

I’d still be very p…-off if I had picked up the Flora product thinking it was butter. I guess I’d have to not wonder why it is called plant based butter in equal print. Cows eat grass which is a plant might be one view point.

That butter now comes in tubs just as margarine did for a long time has me equally cautious of buying anything new or different. I’ve made some shockers without looking twice.

Flora Proactiv has long been marketed with only those two words prominent on the packaging, alongside smaller font marketing hype. It must be a fine line.


Flora ProActive with plant sterols is the one I buy:
‘ Buttery with real buttermilk. ‘
(Buttermilk 8%/100g)

Flora plant based butter also says 8%

Would this be what brings those into the sphere of butter, as being derived from milk :thinking:


No not necessary, the term ‘Peanut Butter’ is also approved for use by FSA and it has its own definition under the code

peanut butter means a peanut based spread.

2.10.4—4 Requirement for food sold as peanut butter

                        Food that is sold as ‘peanut butter’ must:

                        (a)      be peanut butter; and

                        (b)      contain not less than 850 g/kg of peanuts.

So Australia manufacturers has a right to meet the consumer’s expectation that a peanut spread with over 85% peanuts is called ‘peanut butter’.


No, it isn’t exclusive derived from milk as per the code definition. It is derived from plant based oils with addition of other ingredients including buttermilk.

Most other companies which have products that are a blend of butter and vegetable oils (to make spreading easier) call their products blends, spreads and such like…not butter. There are a number of companies (haven’t checked if they are under the same parent ‘umbrella’ company) which have coined the term buttery.


Right, but with so many products now having a mixtures of animal fats and veg oil, what would be the best description.
Is ‘Spread’ adequate?


Quick! Time to apply to FSA for “ Plant Butter “ to be given a definition then? :wink:

‘I don’t believe it’s not margarine!’ :rofl:

What a wonderful world of double standards.
And possibly long past influence from interests in the dairy industry.


That’s the great thing about standards- there are so many to choose from! You can usually find one to suit your needs :wink:


Yes, but possibly ‘edible oil spreads’ is the correct term which should be used and clearly stated on the label. Funny enough or maybe no surprises, Edible Oil Spreads is also defined by FSA.

I think if the spread said ‘Buttery Edible Oil Spread’ clearly on the label, there would be confusion to whether it was butter or a fancy margarine (or a blended spread).

These products are definitely edible oil spreads as per the code and definitely not butter.


I don’t have a problem with ‘peanut butter’ as it is not pretending to be cow’s milk butter nor can it easily be confused with it. The propensity to confuse and deceive is important to me. ‘Plant butter’ looks like and is packaged like butter and is intended to take the same role as butter so it is way higher on the confuse and deceive scale. Add to that the fact that we already have definitions that are intended to avoid confusion of butter and margarine and I take the plant butter to be shonky and not peanut butter.

It isn’t the use of the word ‘butter’ that matters it is the context. This is the same as the use of ‘milk’. Almond milk is not confusing or deceptive because we know almonds don’t have mammaries.



Peanut Butter has a recognised meaning in the mind of consumers. No reasonable person would be confused.

I think this is the opposite of the situation regarding “Plant based butter”, where butter and margarine (sorry, plant based butter) have long been in competition. My opinion: the authorities need to stomp on this ASAP.

Is Choice pursuing this?


Margarine is plain bad. Really unhealthy. butter? Apart from a tiny bit of milk solids of the casein variety, it’s fine. Bodies need some saturated fat, Coconut, or the MCT version, medium chain triglycerides are terrific, the liver processes and mitochondria can utilise without any changes. My parents lived well to a hundred, intelligent, mobile attractive on their farm eating butter. Loved it. No nasty polyunsaturated oils repurposed from the paint industry after world war2. Skin relatively unwrinkled. Father died at breakfast at 100 plus 1 day with a piece of toast, butter and honey in his mout. Enjoyed butter to his last breathe.


Take the saturated fats, they really wont hurt you


[quote=“person, post:15, topic:19184”]
Peanut Butter has a recognised meaning in the mind of consumers. No reasonable person would be confused.

Trivia. It depends on how old you are and which state you grew up in. It is not about confusion, more about common usage or tradition.

The states of Qld, WA and SA made a legislative stand nearly 100 years ago to restrict the use of the description of butter exclusively to churned dairy based product.

The States of NSW, Vic, and Tas along the way decided a free for all was ok. Except for margarine which had to remain white.

Sanatarium Australia supposedly introduced the product with a ‘Peanut Butter’ label. Most likely an important product of NSW or Vic.

Reasonable might also suggest that what ever the states of NSW and Vic agree to the rest of Australia has to follow.

The wonderful efforts of Food Standards Australia aside (thanks @phb), there is little reasonably consistent in our use of English Language. The creativity of marketing in redefining meanings is centuries old. Today it is a fine art where whole new words are even invented that typically have no meaning, but sound important.

Hopefully the buttery plant based spread (aka margarine) revolution is not a sign of the times. Will future consumers need to carry a copy of FSA with them to decipher exactly what a product is supposed to be based on it’s product name?

The USA has a different version of the product history.

While all this is Trivia, how easy it is for traditional differences to be erased in the modern world.

What did you carry your books to school in; a bag, a case, or a port?


A testament to the political power (or lack thereof) in the respective industries out to protect their own. Historically in many places margarine could not be coloured and had to remain pasty white in an attempt to keep it looking less palatable.

Some jurisdictions required it be dyed pink to avoid confusing the public (a cynic would add to protect the dairy interests). Many fascinating hits googling 'margarine must white’. In this day of flavoured and fake everything such acts might make sense again. The grocery aisles could take on hues of colour pushing the rainbow as well as colours from vinyl factories.

and who knew? not I. Thanks for this one @mark_m!


Or how long the word has had a certain usage.

So if the regulators don’t stomp on “plant based butter” ASAP then after some number of years DodgyCo will be able to argue (more or less correctly) that “everyone knows that plant based butter is not butter”.