4 Apr 2024

Herbivore - 'It's time for a good plant-based butter out there'

From Afternoons, 1:25 pm on 4 April 2024

After struggling to find a dairy-free butter he liked, Craig Brown decided to create his own.

Brown, who previously ran a tech company, started eating vegan food while he and his wife were living in London several years ago.

"I found it a lot lighter. Certainly allowed me to have a couple of extra pints of beer so I was quite happy with that."

Herbivore Coconut Butter

Herbivore Coconut Butter Photo: supplied via www.herbivorebutter.com

Coming back to New Zealand during the Covid-19 pandemic, they decided to start a business that would be beneficial for the planet.

"For us, the driver was to create a spread that's inherently better for the environment without compromising on taste, texture or performance. The fact it's vegan was really a secondary."

Although New Zealand supermarkets offer plenty of plant based milk options, Brown says, it's taken a while for Kiwis to make the "switch" to a plant-based butter.

Most other plant-based spreads are made with less than 10% coconut oil, he says. Creating a higher-quality alternative meant using more coconut oil.

Herbivore coconut butter is now available in Kiwi supermarkets and expanding into Asia.

"We're 67% coconut so we have a lot better mouthfeel."

Coconut oil has some good health benefits, Brown says, and coconut trees don't require herbicides, insecticides or additional water.

Herbivore is designed to be a one-for-one replacement for dairy butter, Brown says, that can be used "across the board".

"The performance [of Herbivore] in making croissants, etc. comes from having that fantastic base [so] the food service space is the first place we can make a massive impact.

"We have bakers that buy full pallet-loads of butter off of us on a monthly basis."

Premium dairy butters usually cost $7:50 to $8.50, Brown says, while Herbivore retails for around $6 in over 180 New Zealand stores.

He is "really delighted" at their strong supermarket sales.

"It looks like the public agreed with us that it's time for a good plant-based butter out there."

Herbivore, which is made with coconut oil from a production partner in the Philippines, doesn't make sense to everyone in the Bay of Plenty where Brown  lives.

"Living in this area and saying you're gonna make a coconut butter, you get some some resistance from neighbours."

From his office, which overlooks "beautiful grassland", Brown says he's flying the flag for "fresh thinking".

"We've got big ambition for this product to to really fulfill our our goals of doing the right thing for the planet. We need a lot of people using it, which will reduce the overall emissions from butter and total butter consumption."

Get the RNZ app

for easy access to all your favourite programmes

Subscribe to Afternoons

Podcast (MP3) Oggcast (Vorbis)