Califia Plant Butter – ethical review

Califia have recently brought out two Plant Butter products and they are both on sale at the Grocery Outlet. They’re named Sea Salt with Avocado Oil and Sea Salt with Olive Oil, and are pretty similar in most respects. The ingredients are almost identical except that one contains pressed avocado oil and the other is made with pressed olive oil. Coconut oil is actually the main ingredient in both cases, so you may not notice a massive difference between them.

I’ve been buying less and less dairy since lockdown began and I owe it in part to the large variety of plant-based alternatives that are now on the market. I’ve already covered one of Califia’s plant-based milks, Califia Protein Oat Milk, and just finished evaluating a vegan feta cheese from Violife that I really liked. At some point, I’ll write a summary post of my favorite plant-based alternatives to dairy products.

Review of Califia Plant Butter products

I’ve used these products over the last two months and find them to work well in most situations – fresh bread, crackers, toast, etc. They are fairly dense, which I actually prefer, compared to some of the lighter (whipped) products that I’ve bought before. Being denser means that they take a tiny bit more work to spread, but with the upside that each tub lasts longer. The latter is more important to me as I’m trying to minimize plastic waste.

The Califia Plant Butters are quite cheap at the Grocery Outlet – prices range from around $0.99 to $1.99 per tub compared to a normal price of around $5. It’s a good opportunity for omnivores or vegetarians (like me) to try out new products that may help them kick the dairy habit.  

Califia versus Kite Hill butter

I already reviewed Kite Hill butter and think that the Califia butters are close to the Kite Hill product in terms of taste and spreadability, with Kite Hill having perhaps a slight edge. (Although, being more airy and spreadable, the Kite Hill product has the downside, mentioned above, of not lasting as long.) Both Kite Hill and Califia products include cultured (fermented) ingredients and I think that’s partly why both taste significantly better than older products like Earth Balance.

In terms of social and environmental impact I think that the Califia products are slightly better than the Kite Hill butter – see the ethical review later. Bear in mind, though, that both Kite Hill and Califia are much better than palm oil based products like Earth Balance.

Califia Plant Butter – ingredients

Plant Butter, Sea Salt with Avocado Oil

Ingredients: Coconut Oil, Avocado Oil, Water, Cashews, Tigernut Paste (Tigernuts, Sunflower Seed Oil), Fermented Oregano, Flaxseed and Plum Extract, Sunflower Lecithin, Sea Salt, Cultured Dextrose, Natural Flavor, Nutritional Yeast, Cultures, Beta Carotene (Color).

Plant Butter, Sea Salt with Olive Oil

Ingredients: Coconut Oil, Olive Oil, Water, Cashews, Tigernut Paste (Tigernuts, Sunflower Seed Oil), Fermented Oregano, Flaxseed and Plum Extract, Sunflower Lecithin, Sea Salt, Cultured Dextrose, Natural Flavor, Nutritional Yeast, Cultures, Beta Carotene (Color).

Califia Plant Butter - ethical rating. Califia's two plant butter products are shown: Sea Salt with Avocado Oil and Sea Salt with Olive Oil. Underneath, the Nutritional Facts are shown for these two products.

What are tiger nuts?

The fifth ingredient in both products is tiger nuts – an ingredient that you don’t come across every day. Although they are called nuts, they are actually tubers that are found under the fast-growing yellow nutsedge plant. Also known as chufa, tiger nuts are grown across the world, particularly in Africa and South America, and are often eaten as snacks or made into a type of horchata.

“The tiger nut is between the tuber and the nut [in terms of nutrition],” says José Ángel Pérez Alvarez, a researcher at Miguel Hernandez University of Elche in Spain who studies tiger nuts. For instance, there’s less protein than a typical nut but more than the typical tuber. There’s more starch than the typical nut but less than the typical tuber.

NPR

Tiger nuts were revered by ancient Egyptians, featured in paintings and sometimes entombed along with Egyptians and their belongings. I like that Califia is including this unusual ingredient and that they are utilizing most of it – both the oil and also the fibers that contain beneficial prebiotics.

Take tiger nuts, or as they’re more poetically known – “earth almonds.” Not only do we use the naturally occurring oil they contain, but we use more of the nut in the spread, as well.

Califia

Resistant starch is a prebiotic. It’s the fibre that doesn’t get digested and makes its way to the colon to feed the microflora in our gut. Resistant starch also helps you feel fuller, longer.

The Chufa Co.
Califia Plant Butter contain tiger nuts (also known as chufa). The image shows the yellow nutsedge plant on the left. Top right is an image of dried tiger nuts. Bottom right is an ancient Egyptian tomb painting showing the preparation of tiger nuts.
The yellow nutsedge plant (left); dried tiger nuts (top right); and an ancient Egyptian tomb painting showing the preparation of tiger nuts (bottom right). Image credits: Wikipedia and NPR.

Ethical rating for Califia Plant Butters

Overall, I think that Califia Plant Butter deserves 4 Green Stars for social and environmental impact, based on these factors:

  • They are certified vegan products, providing a more ethical alternative to dairy.
  • The main ingredient, coconut oil, is a sustainable crop, in general. Olives are generally better than avocados, so I would pick the pressed olive oil product over the avocado oil version.
  • Palm oil free.
  • Califia works on conserving water by working with farmers who use more efficient drip irrigation systems and also reclaiming all water from their manufacturing facility for use on nearby farms.
  • Califia makes a good effort at protecting bees and encouraging integrated pest management on supplier farms.
  • Califia did a decent job at using renewable energy in the past. However, the company missed the goal to transition to 100% renewable power by 2020 and now seems to be slipping behind.
  • I’d prefer if Califia sourced organic ingredients.
  • Packaging should be made with recycled plastic (rPET), as discussed in the post on Califia Protein Oat milk.
Califia Plant Butter - ethical rating. Califia's two plant butter products are shown: Sea Salt with Avocado Oil and Sea Salt with Olive Oil. Underneath is a graphic showing an ethical rating of 4 out of 5 Green Stars, representing a score for social and environmental impact.

Summary scores (out of 5) for Califia Protein Oat milk:

  • 4 gold stars for quality and value.
  • 4 green stars for social and environmental impact

If you have a different opinion, please share your rating! Until next time, stay safe : )

Published by jkaybay

I have two sites, both focused on ethical consumerism. The Green Stars Project (https://greenstarsproject.org/) aims to start a movement based on crowd-sourced ethical ratings. Ethical Bargains (https://ethicalbargains.org/) is focused on new products that I've bought at the Grocery Outlet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: