Friday, February 24, 2012

Product Review: Melt Organic Buttery Spread

If you've been around this blog or our cookbooks at all, you know that we tend to use real butter in our recipes. We're into "old school," authentic ingredients. But from time to time, we've experimented with using dairy-free alternatives, such as Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks. We know that some of you are dairy-free, and we want to provide alternatives in our recipes. On top of that, we're always interested in potentially healthier ingredient alternatives that maintain the taste and texture and spirit of our foods while possibly improving the nutrition.

So when Melt Organic contacted us offering to send gratis samples of their 13-ounce tubs of Buttery Spread, we accepted out of curiosity. The story behind Melt is tied to founder Cygnia Rapp, who notes that digestive disorders caused her to give up certain foods, including butter.

Melt spends a lot of marketing real estate touting the nutritional profile of their spread. Here's how one tablespoon of Melt compares to one tablespoon of salted butter from our fridge:

CategoryMeltSalted Butter
Saturated Fat3.5g7g

As you can see, Melt has slightly less calories, half the saturated fat, and notably less cholesterol than butter. But it has basically identical amounts of sodium compared to salted butter. So far, mostly so good.

On the plus side, Melt was nicely "spreadable" straight out of the refrigerator. (In fact, Kelli enjoyed some last night spread onto a slice of freshly baked gluten-free baguette.) As the name implies, it melts well over hot and warm foods. Also as you'd expect based on the nutritional profile, it has a pleasant saltiness. The flavor profile is quite good, though at times it can be a little too coconut-y.

But then on to the negative:

A cornerstone of Melt's hook is what the company calls its Perfect Blend, a blend of five oils: organic virgin coconut oil, organic flaxseed oil, organic palm fruit oil, organic canola oil, and organic hi-oleic sunflower oil.

A closer look at the ingredients label, however, reveals a startling fact: Melt contains butter! This is NOT a dairy-free buttery spread.

Here's the full ingredients label, with bold added for emphasis:

Organic oil blend (organic virgin coconut oil, organic palm fruit oil, organic canola oil, organic hi-oleic sunflower oil, organic flaxseed oil), water, organic unsalted butter, sea salt, organic butter flavor, non-GMO sunflower lecithin, tocopherols, annatto-turmeric. CONTAINS MILK AND TREE NUT.

In my opinion, Melt's entire product positioning is misleading at best, and dangerous for consumers with dairy allergies and other dairy-related dietary restrictions at worst. The fact that they tout it as a "buttery" spread; the fact that they tout their "Perfect Blend" of five vegetable oils without mention of the inclusion of real butter; the fact that founder Cygnia Rapp's story notes that digestive disorders caused her to give up butter. It all adds up to a product you'd expect would be dairy-free. Except that it isn't. In this case, it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and walks like a duck. But it's not a duck.

Why Melt would a) formulate their product this way, and then b) market it in such a way, is beyond me. They have a potentially great product on their hands, but they've excluded from their potential customer base two important groups of people who would otherwise be drawn to this product: vegans and the dairy-free crowd.

At the end of the day, if you're not dairy-free and are looking for a potentially healthier alternative to butter, or you're looking to decrease your butter intake while still enjoying many of its qualities, Melt is worth a look. But I'm afraid Melt has largely missed the mark. The product is good, but it's mismatched to its audience. What a shame...


Logo courtesy Melt Organic Buttery Spread.


Jason said...

Good catch, can't tell you how sick that would have made me!

Amanda on Maui said...

That is terrible! There are so many people who could get sick. Part of me wants to say that they should be reading labels before they pick stuff up, but I too have fallen prey to bad marketing. Thankfully I caught the gluten on the ingredients list after the purchase and was able to give the food item away, but what if I hadn't? It would have been an awful experience to say the least. This company really needs to analyze why they are doing their marketing this way and who it could hurt. With the creator of the project being allergic to butter it doesn't make sense that she should be supporting a product that she can't actually use.

gfe--gluten free easily said...

When I was contacted by the company to review their products, I declined because 1) they did call it a "butter alternative" and I wanted to avoid dairy and 2) the other ingredients are not on my "healthy fats" listing. Plus I don't like using canola oil, even if it's labeled organic. In my contact letter (which I just re-read), it did not state that the founder had given up butter, but again the term "butter alternative" was used. I think their market is actually folks who have bought into the bit that all saturated fat and cholesterol are evil, etc., so yes, their marketing/info is missing the mark for sure and potentially dangerous to all avoiding dairy! Thanks for informing folks, Pete and Kelli!


peterbronski said...

Hi Jason... Yes! Steer clear of Melt if dairy would make you sick!

Cheers, Pete

peterbronski said...

Hi Amanda... I agree. On the one hand, everyone should always be their own best advocate and read the labels, but marketing language and product positioning such as this would make it too easy to overlook that important step.

Cheers, Pete

peterbronski said...

Hi Shirley... Agreed! Happy to spread the word in the name of informing the GF and other food allergen community. You know us - we're never shy to take a company to task over an "issue." =)

Cheers, Pete

Cygnia said...

Hi Peter,

I invented Melt® and founded Prosperity Organic Foods. Thank you so much for offering your un-biased review of Melt to your followers. I am so glad that Kelli enjoyed some Melt with her gluten-free bagel. If I may, I would like to address some of the concerns that have been raised in your review and by the commenters, if that is ok.

Instead of using some pretty nasty, synthetic butter flavors that are known to cause health problems, I chose to use the real thing in very small amounts because I am biased to always prefer real food over something created in a lab, even if it means including butter. “Organic butter flavor” is concentrated butterfat that boosts the butter taste without adding more butter. Opting to use butter in very small amounts is how we provide a superior-tasting product that delivers the MCTs and the Omega 3s in a way that is easy for people to love, especially for those who don’t like virgin coconut or flax oils. While I have had issues with butter (which I suspect is due to pasteurization), I personally don’t have any issues whatsoever with the small amount of butter in Melt®, and believe me I eat a lot of this stuff.

Obviously for people with dairy allergies, they are better off with a non-dairy product, such as our new product coming out, Honey Melt®, which is dairy-free and only has 2 g of sugar per serving. Honey Melt is not vegan since it contains honey, but I can tell you it tastes really good.

The concept of the “Perfect Blend” is based on extensive information on dietary fats and oils supporting the idea that organic, quality sources of saturated fats are necessary for health and should be embraced in everyone’s diet, but in balance with other dietary fats and oils. The easiest source to refer you and your readers is Dr. Mary Enig’s book, “Know Your Fats: The Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils, and Cholesterol”. Dr Mary Enig is a lipids chemist of 40+ years and an expert on dietary fats and oils. She was one of the pioneers to uncover the problems with hydrogenated oils and a huge proponent of coconut oil long before its popularity. According to her book, 85% of dietary fat should be consumed as saturated and monounsaturated fat and 15% should be consumed as polyunsaturated fat. Melt is 87% saturated and monounsaturated (a nearly even split) and 13% polyunsaturated fat with an Omega 6:Omega 3 ratio of 2:1.

As for the positioning, we call out butter along with the other organic oils in the Melt blend on our website on the FAQs page ( However, you are correct in stating that butter is not discussed under the Perfect Blend page, an oversight that should be corrected; thank you for bringing it to my attention.

Canola oil: I am on board with the legitimate concerns of sourcing organic canola oil in the US, which is why we only use organic canola oil sourced from Europe (the Netherlands). Since I source the ingredients and order them for production, you are hearing it from the horse’s mouth. In addition, every batch of canola oil is tested for GMO contamination so we know it is non-GMO… every time. The canola oil is expeller-pressed so it is hexane-free and each batch is tested for rancidity prior to its use so we know that we are not making Melt with rancid oil. Canola oil is 60% monounsaturated fat and provides Omega 3s so that we can offer 425mg per serving, while still maintaining an Omega 6:Omega 3 ratio of 2:1, which when you compare that ratio to the competition is awesome.

Last, but not least, this is a soy-free product and we are currently undergoing non-GMO certification with the non-GMO Project. The palm fruit oil we use is certified Fair Trade and Eco-Social by the RSPO as well as the virgin coconut oil (different agency since it’s not from S America).

I hope this information helps you and your readers. Thanks again for your time and effort in reviewing Melt!

Cygnia said...

Excuse me, I meant MCFAs, not MCTs in reference to virgin coconut oil.

Anonymous said...

Fortunately keeping Kosher I noticed right away that it was dairy. Knowing kosher symbols makes an easy read if the product is Kosher. Not always the healthiest but at least you know very quickly if it has dairy or in contact with dairy.

Anonymous said...

I misread the packaging and I am terribly upset. :(

Anonymous said...

Hi Cygnia, I am halfway through my first tub of Melt and am pleasantly surprised. I do not have any allergies but am always looking to substitute healthier fats and alternatives that are organic when possible. I eat mainly vegetarian and organic. Of course I still use and love real organic butter for specialty foods but generally use olive oil and organic coconut oil. When I saw the blend of organic oils I decided to give it a try. I have mainly used it to cook veggies, omelets, reheat quinoa, spread it on toast, sandwiches and melted over popcorn. It melts with a nice consistency and adds a nice flavor to my cooked dishes. In my limited experience it acts much like butter when heated in the pan- enough so I will try doing scallops in Melt as my litmus test. Also, some people find my coconut oil too coconutty and using Melt is much more subtle. Thank you for allowing me to cut out more butter while preserving a buttery taste that some foods or my pallet prefer. Best, b

Anonymous said...

This is just glorified margarine, i.e. blend of vegetable oils and a bit of butter.

Butter/Margarine itself never had gluten anyway so it's just a marketing gimmick.

I'll just stick to butter and lactose intolerant people should stick to margarine or nothing.