By Jeanne Yacoubou, MS
VRG Research Director
In August 2012, The VRG received a question from a Canadian reader about butter oil. She saw it listed as an ingredient in several chocolate bar brands that appeared otherwise dairy-free. The reader was concerned that dairy-derived butter oil would make some of her favorite dark chocolate bars non-vegan and thus unsuitable for her.
The VRG contacted several chocolate companies in both the USA and Canada in September and October 2012 about butter oil. Based on what we’ve been told by phone and email correspondence, butter oil used in chocolate bars is dairy-derived. (Note: The VRG discovered one blog on the Internet which claimed that butter oil is derived from canola oil. No chocolate company using butter oil today whom we contacted substantiated this claim during research for this report.)
One of the chocolate bars in question was Godiva’s 72% Extra Dark Chocolate Bar. We learned that the butter oil in their 72% Extra Dark Chocolate Bar is “derived from dairy butter.” There are no other dairy-derived ingredients in this bar. The word “milk” does not appear in parentheses after “butter oil” as it does on the labels of some other brands.
Godiva does not state that any of their chocolate is vegan since the same equipment is used to make all of their products, most of which contain milk or milk products. As an example, the Godiva Santo Domingo Bar, available only in a few select boutiques, where there are …no direct milk ingredients…and is 85% cocoa, is not called vegan…It’s made on the same equipment as their milk chocolate bars. (Butter oil is not listed as an ingredient in this bar either.)
Barkleys Natural Confectionery based in British Columbia sells several flavors of Kayer Dark Chocolate Truffle Bars containing butter oil. Barkleys’ Director told us that “…our butter oil is derived from milk.” There are no other dairy-derived ingredients in this bar.
Barkley’s also stated that they will be “…launching three new flavors in the brand that will be vegan – using no butter oil.” The Kayer bars contain “organic coconut palm sugar” which is, according to their website, “a 100% organic, minimally processed, unfiltered, unbleached natural sweetener and contains no preservatives…no cane sugar added…just pure, unadulterated palm sugar made from 100% coconut nectar from Coco Nucifera.” For more information: http://www.barkleys.ca/page/1smyg/Kayer_Organic_Chocolate_Bars.html
Trader Joe’s carries several chocolate products listed on their Vegan Products page including 70% Dark Chocolate Bars and 72% Dark Chocolate: http://www.traderjoes.com/lists/vegan.asp. The VRG emailed Trader Joe’s about these bars’ ingredients asking specifically if butter oil was an ingredient. Nicki in Customer Relations emailed us a response: “There is no dairy used in our Trader Joe’s 70% Dark Chocolate Bars. Please know that we fully disclose all ingredients used in our TJ’S products.”
The VRG also asked a few other chocolate companies identified by our Canadian reader as those listing butter oil as an ingredient in their chocolate bars. We called Seattle Chocolates, Marich, and Maisie Jane’s. All three told us by phone that the butter oil used in their chocolate bars is derived from dairy butter.
VRG readers may like to know that Seattle Chocolates sells an Extreme Dark Truffle Bar which does not list butter oil or any other dairy ingredient in its ingredients statement: http://shop.seattlechocolates.com/scc/shop-chocolate/truffle-bars/extreme-dark-truffle-bar.html
Kristen of the Marich Confectionery Company told us by phone that their quality assurance manager confirmed that “the butter oil [in our chocolate products] is from dairy butter.” Kristen emailed The VRG with this information: “A few of our hand-packed products are vegan: Jelly Beans, Licorice Pastels, Celestial Sours, Black Heart Black & Black Cherry Licorice.” Ingredients are listed on their website: https://www.marich.com/
Della the office manager at Maisie Jane’s California Sunshine Products told us by phone and email that “No, we do not have any chocolate products that are vegan.” She stated that the “butter oil [in our chocolate products] is from dairy butter.” Della also said “Several of Maisie Jane’s items are vegan…: Almond Butter, Natural Almonds, Natural Organic Pistachios, Natural Organic Cashews, and our Tamari Almonds.” Ingredient information on Maisie Jane’s products can be found here: http://www.maisiejanes.com/
For more information about butter oil, readers may find the website of the Canadian Dairy Commission helpful. There it states that one advantage of using butter oil is the “control of fat bloom in chocolate candy:” http://www.milkingredients.ca/index-eng.php?id=173
The contents of this article, our website, and our other publications, including the Vegetarian Journal, are not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional. We often depend on product and ingredient information from company employees or company statements.Information does change and mistakes are always possible. Please use your own best judgment about whether a product is suitable for you. Further research or confirmation may be warranted.
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