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Be Better My Friend

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Be Better is a new, plant-based butter which has recently launched in the UK and is already being used by renowned chefs the world over. We asked co-founder, award-winning global pastry chef Marike van Beurden what’s different about the product, what’s so special about it and if she is planning to start a plant-based revolution in hospitality.

Who are the people behind the brand and why have you launched a vegan butter?

Be Better My Friend is the company set up by three co-founders: myself, a pastry chef; food scientist Pere Castells and global food strategist Joost Lindeman.

I am lactose intolerant, and wanted to create simpler, ‘clean label’, vegan recipes, but discovered that a lot of plant-based ingredients contain multiple ingredients of their own.

My co-founder Joost Lindeman spotted an opportunity to develop the formula for Be Better, the world’s first 100% plant butter dedicated for pastry chefs, as an easy one-on-one swap for dairy. This coincided with the pandemic hitting, meaning all three of us had time on our hands to perfect its formula.

We share a vision to cease pastry’s dependency on animal-derived ingredients by crafting delicious plant-based alternatives and revolutionising hospitality, providing more choice for today’s consumer.

What is meant by ‘clean label’ and why is it important?

There is a growing demand for clean label products; conscious nutrition which promotes utter transparency and sustainability for a better planet. Clean labelling fulfils consumer demand for food that is natural, unprocessed, pure and simple, while supporting a healthier lifestyle.

Food which has a better environmental footprint is of paramount importance in the world today. In fact, we used the independent research body Eaternity to measure Be Better’s environmental impact.

Their research found that switching from dairy butter to Be Better plant butter represents 79% fewer CO2 emissions (9.6kg less CO2 per 1kg product) and 86% less use of scarce water (264l less per 1kg product). We think that’s a solid reason to switch.

Why the UK?

While more countries around the globe are switching on to the fact that plant-based alternatives aren’t just a fad and are here to stay, the UK is streets ahead. On top of that, the UK is seen as a leading global centre in the culinary industry; a place that top chefs want to be.

Is it important to you that diners have more choice?

Yes. It’s fundamentally important. The world is increasingly turning to plant-based foods and the industry has had to adapt. Latterly, we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of plant-based products reaching supermarket shelves, as well as a growing number of restaurants offering vegetarian and vegan options. The launch of Be Better meets this demand.

The shift is being driven by diners’ concerns about animal welfare, the environment and health. It’s not just vegans and vegetarians who are driving the change, as more and more people who eat meat are choosing to introduce more plant-based meals into their diets.

In addition, as more people become aware of the environmental impact of their food choices, there is doubtlessly an increase in the demand for plant-based foods.

In particular, there’s been a growing interest in sustainable agriculture practices. For example, the shea nuts used in Be Better plant butter are a forestry product and not farmed, fertilised or irrigated. Therefore, no additional water is used in their growth.

Do you think this is the start of things to come? Can you see this shift happening with other products, not just dairy alternatives?

100%. There is no doubt that the rise in plant-based eating is having a major impact on the food industry and will continue to do so. More people are choosing to eat plants – be that by turning to a wholly plant-based diet, moving to a more flexitarian way of eating or being more prudent in the provenance of what they eat.

Therefore, chefs are driving a demand for more plant-based products to be made available to them.

Are you against the dairy industry?

We are not environmental campaigners, but we do care about the longevity of the planet we live on. For us, it’s all about providing consumers the choices to make their own decisions. Let’s not forget that one reason for eating plant butter instead of dairy is lactose intolerance and has nothing to do with the dairy industry.

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But as responsible, conscious residents of planet earth, we have no option than to look at alternatives to dairy.

Farmed animals, including those used for dairy, produce enormous amounts of methane, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide, which are all greenhouse gases. Cows cause more of these emissions than any other species.

In fact, the United Nations itself says that reducing methane emissions, which are believed to be 84 times as warming as CO2, is vital for tackling climate change.

What’s different about Be Better My Friend?

Aside from its environmental credentials, Be Better has a neutral taste, which enables chefs like me to bring flavours, such as chocolate and fruit – sometimes hidden due to the strong flavour presence of dairy butter – to the fore, in a pure, honest and more intense way. It’s the ingredients you can taste, rather than the butter, making it an ideal flavour transporter.

As well as a more neutral taste, it doesn’t have the same fatty ‘mouthfeel’ as butter, although it can be used in exactly the same amounts and we believe it makes pastry taste purer and fresher.

None of the founders are vegan, are they? So why launch a plant-based butter?

You don’t have to be a vegan to care about animals and the environment. All three of us care deeply about the provenance of what we put on our plates and we are part of a growing wave of people who want that cleaner label, who want to cut down on dependency on meat at mealtimes and who strive to do what’s better for the planet. We are all work in progress who care about our wellbeing and that of the planet.

Why call it Be Better My Friend? Are you trying to encourage people to be better?

Bruce Lee once said: “Be Water My Friend”, essentially saying that you can’t fight against change.

Instead of fighting it is better to adapt. This belief is very much at the heart of Be Better My Friend. We have to change how we eat if we want to keep our planet liveable. And as ‘friends’ we are dedicated to helping pastry chefs across the globe to make this good change without any compromise on quality, workability and price.

What’s it made from?

Be Better is a perfected blend of vegetable oils and fats (shea, organic coconut, rapeseed), water, emulsifiers: mono and diglycerides of fatty acids, sunflower lecithin, citric acid and natural flavour. It is free from allergens and GMO, and is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

Is it unique?

Be Better is not the first plant butter on the market, but it is the first 100% plant butter purely for pastry chefs. It is designed to directly replace dairy butter without the need to change the recipe or the process. It is a plant-butter that mimics the melting behaviour of dairy-butter, making it an easy ingredient swap, without the need for chefs to change recipes or restrain staff – time chefs don’t have.

What are its benefits?

As well as the neutral taste and the benefits to the environment and animals, Be Better is considerably cheaper than dairy butter, which presents another benefit to artisans and pastry professionals in these days of spiralling costs.

With Be Better, Pastry purer. Why cover up the perfect taste of nature? Why destroy the careful selection of ingredients made by the chef?

What if people like the taste of diary butter?

We’re not saying that there isn’t a place for dairy butter. For us, it’s about giving consumers the choice and of course there will always be those who like the taste of dairy.

Why do you think Be Better is proving so popular with chefs the world over?

To us, it’s a no-brainer. Dairy butter can be replaced with Be Better one-on-one, making it easy for professional pastry chefs and bakers to make a high quality pastry which is better for the planet, their pocket and for the palate.

There are several endorsements from world-renowned chefs on the Be Better My Friend website, including one from Miquel Guarro, pastry chef at Hofmann Barcelona, who said: “I tried Be Better in a lemon curd and have never achieved a level of purity of citrus flavour like that before. Amazing.”

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Top chefs who have endorsed Be Better include Philip Khoury, pastry chef at Harrods, and Jordi Roca from El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain, former winner of the World’s Best Pastry Chef Award and twice winner of World’s Best Restaurant Award.

Is it better for you than dairy butter?

This is a topic of debate and one shouldn’t simply assume that natural or clean label products are automatically better for you, in terms of health.

We didn’t set out to create health food, but if you care about your overall wellbeing and that of the planet, switching to a sustainable, non-dairy butter alternative which has fewer ingredients and is 100% organic, may be a good, conscious choice.

Be Better is 80% fat, but contains no cholesterol. But it is definitely more healthy for the planet and for animals.

Why are you targeting pastry chefs?

Not only did it make sense, being a pastry chef myself, but Be Better plant butter is perfect in all pastry applications: croissants, biscuits, cakes and other pastries. Quite simply, it has been designed and perfected for use in baking and pastry.

Instead of adding flavourings to mimic the flavour of dairy butter, Be Better butter has a clean and neutral flavour. This makes it a perfect ingredient that won’t mask the fine flavours of fruit, chocolate and spices, for example. This means you can make pure, honest pastry – 100% natural, 0% cow.

We love the creativity, the passion, the hard work, the art and science that goes into pastry, but its dependency on animal-derived ingredients is massive. We want to make sure that pastry has a future and we want to ensure that the quality of baked goods will be as good or better when changing to plant-based,

To move to a more sustainable food culture, chefs should play a leading role. It’s our passion to educate the world that great pastry is also possible with plant-based ingredients.

Can you tell the difference when eating a pastry or croissant made with BBMF compared to regular butter?

While we believe it has a fresher, cleaner taste than dairy butter, some feedback we have received is that people haven’t been able to tell that they are eating a product made with a non-dairy product. Maybe that’s because they have preconceived ideas about what vegan-friendly products should taste like, or maybe there has never been a product quite so good before.

Don’t just take our word for it. For months, we asked global artisans to test Be Better to see what they thought. If you look on our website you’ll see several endorsements from world-leading pastry professionals who simply love it!

Why should chefs choose BBMF over regular butter?

To us, it’s a no-brainer. Dairy butter can be replaced with Be Better one-on-one, making it easy for them to make a high quality pastry which is better for the planet, their pocket and for the palate.

What’s next for BBMF? Are there more new products in the pipeline?

Yes, while Be Better butter is our first launch, we hope in the future to launch other plant-based alternatives to the market, weakening the industry’s dependency on animal-derived products, such as eggs, creams, butters and so on.

And will it ever be for sale in supermarkets?

For the time being, our focus is primarily on the launch of Be Better, but watch this space.

How can chefs get hold of Be Better?

We are working with distributors in the UK and will also be doing so in nine other overseas markets – Germany, France, Spain , The Netherlands, Hungary, Greece, Australia, Singapore and Japan – as we help grow the plant-based revolution the world over.

Chefs wanting to try a sample can do so by visiting the Be Better My Friend website.

The post Be Better My Friend appeared first on Wellbeing Magazine.

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