Becel Vegan vs. Earth Balance
If you're vegan and looking for a butter substitute, your list of options just got bigger. Margarine giant Becel has introduced a new animal-free product called Becel Vegan. Yes, they actually put vegan in the name. Where Earth Balance Buttery Spreads have long reigned over vegan pocketbooks, Becel is stepping into the ring. Seems great, but is it really all it's cracked up to be?
At $3.99 a tub, Becel Vegan is putting up a good fight. It beats Earth Balance's often $5 price tag. It's also available at major grocery stores, like Metro, meaning it's more accessible than Earth Balance and will go on sale regularly. Oh, and it's more spreadable and does a better butter impersonation. Seems pretty win-win-win-win, until you dive into the details.
Becel is owned by a company called UniLever that does test their products on animals. No animals in the product itself, but animals are required to be used by law for the tests necessitated by some the ingredients used in the spread. Earth Balance doesn't have to test on animals since their ingredients don't fall under the list of products required to be tested. They spend more money to use animal-friendly ingredients, while Becel cuts cost for themselves and for the consumer by using cheaper ingredients. UniLever says they're constantly researching "alternative" methods, but for now they must test on animals.
Becel Vegan Ingredients: canola & sunflower oils, water, modified palm and palm kernel oils, salt, soy lecithin, vegetables monoglycerides, potassium sorbate, citric acid, alpha-tocopherol acetate (vitamin E), natural & artificial flavours, vitamin A palmitate (vitamin A), vitamin D2, beta carotene.
Earth Balance Ingredients: Expeller-pressed natural oil blend (soybean, palm fruit, canola and olive), filtered water, pure salt, natural flavour (derived from corn, no msg, no alcohol, no gluten), soy protein, soy lecithin, lactic acid (non-dairy, derived from sugar beets), and naturall extracted annatto for colour.
The modified oils and artificial flavours in Becel Vegan are a bit distressing. Earth Balance prides itself on not using genetically modified organisms (GMO's), and when you buy their product you know the company you're supporting is trying to be as earth-friendly as possible. I'm personally not a huge fan of the Earth Balance taste, and try as I might to be environmentally friendly I just don't like using the spread on anything where I'm trying to get a buttery flavour. So I'll use it in some baking but not on toast. Definitely won't use it in a butter-based sauce or on popcorn.
There's also the issue of soy in both products. If you avoid margarine and butter for reasons other than to avoid all animal products as part of a vegan lifestyle, like lactose-intolerance or a milk protein sensitivity, there's a chance that you might find soy hard to digest too. With both Becel and Earth Balance you get rid of the dairy products (regular Becel and other margarines still have whey, making them okay for lactose-intolerant people, but not okay for vegans) but you can end up no better off. In answer to this, Earth Balance has a new soy-free product that I haven't seen in Canada yet, but is hopefully coming soon to a store near you. It uses sunflower lecithin and pea protein. Cross your fingers that these are more digestible.
What does this have to do with Montreal? Well, ironically, I started thinking of this because it's the beginning of lobster season here, and melted butter starts to sound like liquid gold. Just because vegans don't eat lobster doesn't mean they should be denied the delicious taste in a million other ways. Butter's perfect on spring's wild leeks and twice-boiled fiddleheads, and I've already started dreaming of summer's sweet corn and fresh crops of apples for tarte tatin...
Look for Earth Balance (original) at Health Food and organics stores like Le Frigo Vert (2130 Mackay), Rachelle Bery (2510 Beaubien East and 4810 St-Laurent) and BioTerre (201 St-Viateur West) and in the organics section of major grocery stores like Provigo.