'I can't believe it's aquafaba': Plant-based butter alternative debuting at Winter Fancy Food

by Monica Watrous
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FabaButter is made with byproduct of hummus manufacture.
 

SAN FRANCISCO — The key ingredient in FabaButter, a new non-dairy butter substitute debuting at the Winter Fancy Food Show, is aquafaba, the leftover brine from a can of chickpeas. This flagship product from Brooklyn start-up Fora features aquafaba sourced from hummus manufacturers around the country.

“Guys who would be pouring this stuff down the drain, we’re basically buying their wastewater,” said Aidan Altman, co-founder and chief executive officer of Fora, in an interview with Food Business News.

FabaButter is among the dozens of new brands debuting at the Winter Fancy Food Show, held Jan. 21-23 in San Francisco. Mr. Altman and Andrew McClure, co-founder and chief financial officer — both self-proclaimed vegans — developed the product as a more sustainable alternative to traditional butter and refined the recipe with help from Michelin star chefs. Made with coconut oil, FabaButter has the flavor and functionality of grass-fed dairy butter, Mr. Altman said.

Andrew McClure (left) and Aidan Altman, founders of Fora, at the Winter Fancy Food Show.
 

“You can cook with it, bake with it and can make croissants with it, which is generally unheard of with any butter alternative on the market right now,” he said. “We’re really trying to create the one-to-one replacer to dairy butter with zero behavioral shift for the consumer from purchasing to functionality.”

FabaButter is set to launch this spring both in retail and food service. Mainstream movie theater chains may someday serve a vegan buttery popcorn made with FabaButter, Mr. Altman said.

“In general we want to get creative with how we’re incorporating different channels into our model,” Mr. McClure added. “The standard model of a lot of companies we’ve seen today is, ‘Let’s get into Whole Foods and be exclusively a Whole Foods darling,” and I think we have a more dynamic business model where we are leveraging food service, looking at an industrial ingredient like butter that is needed in almost every single bakery, not just domestically but also internationally. And the demand is huge increasingly for vegan alternatives, for products we’ve taken for granted for the past several decades. That’s where we come into play, and we have several big accounts lined up.”

Sir Kensington's Fabanaise
Aquafaba is also an ingredient in Sir Kensington’s Fabanaise, a vegan mayonnaise substitute.
 

It won't be the first time aquafaba is introduced to the market. The ingredient is featured in Sir Kensington’s Fabanaise, a vegan mayonnaise substitute now owned by Unilever. Fora Foods’ founders said they plan to continue innovating with aquafaba and are exploring other segments within dairy-based foods.

“We hope every year we’re going to be able to release a new non-dairy product,” Mr. Altman said. “In general, dairy is such tired category. The branding is pretty old-school. The product itself — these staple companies have been around forever. We want to come in and disrupt the category in general. We’ve already done R.&D. into a few other product lines, ranging from dressings to frostings to whipped cream. And we’re always going to use this aquafaba product as the base in all of our dairy-free products.” 
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