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New margarine too buttery for Quebec: report

Unilever’s new margarine, Becel Gold with Buttery Taste, may have crossed the line in Quebec’s food labelling laws, according to an interview with Agriculture Minister Laurent Lessard in the farm newspaper La Terre de Chez Nous.

In an article Tuesday on the newspaper’s website, Lessard said he has asked the multinational food and consumer product company to change the new product’s label, just months after the province moved to allow sales of yellow margarine in Quebec stores for the first time in over two decades.

Quebec’s agriculture ministry (MAPAQ) is analyzing its legal options in the event that Unilever doesn’t comply, Lessard told the newspaper.

Even if Unilever doesn’t sell more margarine by introducing the new concept, its move could potentially deceive consumers and is not in the spirit of Quebec’s food labelling legislation, Lessard said.

Unilever rolled out the new product in Quebec on Aug. 20, saying in a press release that day that “the timing could not be better for Quebecers” as Becel Gold with Buttery Taste became the first Becel product in Quebec to be yellow in colour, “rather than the traditional white that up until now was the norm for all margarines in the province.”

The province for 21 years had refused to allow margarine sold in the province to resemble butter, requiring the spread to instead be marketed in a lard-like whitish hue. But the province decided in June to lift the regulation, and Quebec’s dairy producers’ group opted not to contest the decision, saying their butter was now on a competitive footing with other spreads.

“The timing for the change in legislation was perfect for us,” said
Unilever’s Becel brand manager, Margaret McKellar, in the company’s Aug. 20 release. “Our goal for Becel Gold, with Buttery Taste was to provide Quebecers with a great tasting new margarine that was low in saturated fat and had no trans fat. Now, we can also give them a great-looking margarine.”

Unilever said Aug. 20 the product will be marketed in the rest of Canada under the name Becel Buttery Taste.

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