Answer: No. Imperial Margarine is by no means vegan, mainly because it contains animal byproducts.
Everyone knows that butter is a dairy product, meaning it’s not suitable for those who want to try a vegan diet. That’s why margarine, a butter substitute consisting primarily of vegetable oils, exists. However, people have recently discovered that certain brands, particularly Imperial Margarine, might be using animal byproducts all along. So, is Imperial Margarine vegan or not?
Unfortunately, Imperial Margarine is by no means vegan, mainly because it contains animal byproducts. But rest assured, as there exist completely vegan margarine brands.
Now, you might be wondering, what makes Imperial Margarine non-vegan?
If you’ve taken a look at its ingredient list, such a question is understandable since none of the ingredients seem to be out of place. So, to clear things up, let’s take a look at its ingredients.
What Is Imperial Margarine Made Of?
When you look at the ingredients list at the back of Imperial Margarine, these are usually what you’ll see:
- Vegetable oil blend (palm, palm kernel, soybean oils)
- Beta carotene (as coloring)
- Citric acid
- Emulsifiers (diglycerides, monoglycerides, soy lecithin)
- Potassium sorbate and calcium disodium
- Vitamin A palmitate
If you know what these ingredients are, this list may seem completely vegan, but it’s not.
This is because whey is by no means vegan, whether you like it or not.
Manufacturers obtain whey by straining curdled milk of its liquids during the cheese-making process. They then dehydrate the liquid and turn it into powder for various purposes.
Therefore, whey, in fact, comes from cheese production and is an animal byproduct.
So, why, after going through the trouble of using plant-based alternatives, would Imperial Margarine contain whey? you may ask. Well, there’s a rather simple explanation for this.
Why Does Imperial Margarine Contain Whey?
While the presence of whey indeed strips away a brand’s right to call their product 100% vegan, this particular ingredient has far more benefits than one might think. Below are some examples:
Improves Nutritional Value
Whey, or any dairy product, for that matter, is often used to boost the nutritional value of processed foods, specifically by boosting protein content. Whey, in particular, is high in many other nutrients and amino acids, so many manufacturers prefer whey over other dairy products.
Since many brands believe healthy products are more marketable than vegan products, it’s fairly understandable why they chose to add whey in Imperial Margarine when they can choose not to.
Helps Achieve The Right Color
When margarine first comes out of a machine, it initially has a white color, which might be unappetizing to most consumers. But when you buy margarine from stores, it’s colored yellow.
This is because they use carotene to give it the signature yellow color, much like what they do with butter. But of course, that usually isn’t enough to achieve their desired result.
That’s why they also use whey to achieve the perfect color for the product.
If you didn’t know, whey is a popular baking ingredient for browning baking goods.
Helps With Gelling And Texture
During the first phases of margarine production, the product would have a relatively dense texture. While the emulsifiers help achieve the right texture, they’re usually not enough.
Whey essentially helps turn margarine into its gel-like form.
The emulsifying properties of whey also help prolong the shelf-life of margarine by preventing the fat and water from separating from one another.
This is yet another reason why many manufacturers add whey into their products, specifically Imperial Margarine. Alternative emulsifiers like water and oil typically reduce shelf-life.
Before we go any further, note that the presence of whey isn’t the only thing making Imperial Margarine non-vegan.
Why Is Imperial Margarine Non-Vegan?
Apart from using whey, there are two other reasons why Imperial Margarine is not completely vegan.
Other Non-Vegan Ingredients
Yes, whey isn’t the only non-vegan ingredient in Imperial Margarine. Others include:
- Monoglycerides And Diglycerides: These emulsifying ingredients are typically made by reacting triglycerides with glycerol, which are both found in either plant or animal fats. Now, it wouldn’t be a problem if they use plant-based glycerol or triglycerides, but Imperial Margarine does not disclose such information to its consumers. Hence, it’s best to steer away if you want to maintain your diet.
- Vitamin A Palmitate: This ingredient is usually derived from palmitic acid, which comes from palm oil. However, it can also come from animals, and again, there’s no information pertaining to this.
- Lecithin: Lecithin can also potentially be vegan if it’s derived from egg yolks. Fortunately, they specified in their ingredients list that they use soy lecithin, so it should be completely vegan.
The second reason doesn’t have anything to do with the presence of a certain ingredient but rather the lack thereof.
Lack Of Vegetable Oil
As stated earlier, margarine is a plant-based substitute for butter. That’s why the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) set forth that for a product to be labeled “margarine,” it must contain 80% plant oils.
But according to the owners of Imperial Margarine, their product only consists of 53% oil.
Hence, while people refer to Imperial Margarine as margarine, it technically doesn’t qualify as such.
So, if Imperial Margarine, one of the most popular brands of margarine, doesn’t qualify as margarine, how do you tell if a product is vegan?
How Can You Tell If A Margarine Is Vegan?
The best way to tell if a tub of margarine is vegan is to simply look at its ingredient list.
However, if you’re not an expert at ingredients, the task can prove to be difficult. In that regard, here’s a list of ingredients a vegan margarine brand should not contain, according to Healthline:
- Casein: Casein is the substance left after milk is coagulated during the cheese production process.
- Lactose: Lactose is a type of sugar found in dairy products and milk.
- Vitamin D3: This vitamin is derived from lanolin, which comes from sheep’s wool.
- Lecithin: Lecithin is, as stated earlier, a substance that can be derived from egg yolks or animal tissues.
- Marine oil: As the name implies, marine oil can be derived from marine animals like oil or crabs.
- Suet: Suet is commonly found around the kidneys or loins of animals.
- Tallow: Tallow is a type of fat made from cattle or sheep.
With this, it should be fairly easy to determine if a tub of margarine is vegan or not by simply looking at the ingredients list. This is particularly handy if the label doesn’t tell if it’s vegan or not. But of course, not everyone has the time to look at the ingredient list of each margarine product in stores.
What Brands Of Margarine Are Completely Vegan?
If you’re in a hurry to buy margarine, here are the brands that should be just what you need:
Country Crock is a food brand owned by none other than Upfield, one of the leading producers of plant-based products. And recently, they have added a plant-based butter, a.k.a. margarine, into their assortment of products.
- The product comes in two forms—spreads and sticks
- It also comes in different varieties (olive, avocado, and almond oil)
- The margarine contains zero trans-fat due to the lack of animal fats
I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter
I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter is yet another brand owned by Upfield and is often marketed as a plant-based substitute of butter. It’s commonly known for its almost-identical appearance to butter, hence the name. This is particularly true with their “It’s Vegan” variety, their take on veganism.
- It’s Vegan is made of purified water and plant-based oils
- It doesn’t contain partially hydrogenated oils
- It contains no artificial flavoring
While it may not be the most popular brand, WayFare is still among the most vegan food brands you can find on the market. This is apparent in how they continue to cater to vegans with their products, such as Garlic Whipped Butter, Sweet Cinnamony Whipped Butter, and Salted Whipped Butter, all of which are vegan.
- They are completely plant-based
- These products contain no soy and dairy
- They boast a taste unique from other brands
Earth Balance is known for its assortment of plant-based products, and they did not disappoint with their take on plant-based butter/margarine. Organic Coconut Spread is a 100% vegan product that goes well with bread and other baked goods.
- It tastes exceptional
- It has that appetizing coconut tanginess
- It goes well with baked goods
Although Imperial Margarine is indeed a dairy product and is therefore not vegan, note that there are labels out there that don’t contain dairy in any form, as you can see in the previous sections.
But beware, as there may be labels that claim to be dairy-free when in reality, they’re not. Fortunately, you should now know how to distinguish vegan margarine from those that aren’t with this guide. If you want to know more about the vegan qualifications of other baking ingredients, you might want to check out this article about baking powder and baking soda.