Margarine is a spread used for flavoring, baking, and cooking.
While butter has been around for hundreds of years, margarine is a more recent invention.
Emperor Napoleon III of France offered a prize to anyone who could make a satisfactory butter alternative, suitable for use by the armed forces and the lower classes.
In 1869, French chemist Hippolyte Mège-Mouriès combined beef tallow, milk, and margaric acid to create a substitute for butter that he called oleomargarine – which became shortened to the trade name margarine.
In 1871, Mège sold his invention to the Dutch firm Jurgens, which later became part of Unilever which makes Flora Margarine in the present day.
While butter that cows produced had a slightly yellow color, margarine had a white color, making the margarine look more like lard, which many people found unappetizing. Around the late 1880s, the manufacturers began coloring the margarine yellow to improve sales.
Over time, vegetable oils replaced the animal fats, and by World War I margarine was almost exclusively made from vegetable oils.
Margarine became very popular in the 1930s and 1940s during the Depression and World War II because of its cheaper price and a scarcity of butter.
During the late 1950s an increased interest in the relation of polyunsaturated fats and oils to health hastened the shift to corn, safflower, and sunflower oils as the fat ingredients of margarine.
Today, butter and margarine are very similar in terms of taste, appearance, price, and even calories.
The main difference between butter and margarine is what type of fat each contains. Butter tends to contain more saturated fat, since it’s made from animal fat. Margarine, on the other hand, usually contains unsaturated fats, since it’s made from vegetable oils. These unsaturated fats help to reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which is what health professionals consider to be “bad” cholesterol.
Margarine is a high-energy food, containing approximately 717 calories per 100 grams (3.5 ounces).
It is rich in vitamin E and sodium added as salt for flavor. Vitamin A and vitamin D may be also added.
Today, margarine comes in many forms, from a hardened stick that resembles a stick of butter to a variety of softened products in tubs and other containers.
In some jurisdictions, margarine must have a minimum fat content of 80 percent to be labelled as such, the same as butter.
Margarine’s name derives from the Greek word for pearls, margarite, since margaric acid resembled milky, pearl-like drops.
In some places in the United States, it is colloquially referred to as oleo, short for oleomargarine.
In Britain and Australia, it can be referred to colloquially as marge.
Margarine was long subjected to severe restrictive legislation, particularly in the United States, because of the opposition of the dairy industry.
In the 1870s margarine, the economical rival to butter, was mandated in New Hampshire to be dyed pink in order to help dairy farmers. The reasoning: nobody would buy pink margarine.
The largest margarine sculpture is 1506.800 kg (3321.925 lbs) and was achieved by Devwrat Anand Jategaonkar (India), in Mumbai India on 23 February 2017. The dimensions of the sculpture were a length of 2.5 meters (8 ft 2 in), width 1.1 meter (3 ft 8 in) and a height of 1.85 meters (6 ft 1 in).