With the exponential rise of veganism, the supply of products without animal ingredients has been increasing, and plant-based alternatives for dairy products are typically what vegans seek the most. Whether it’s non-dairy milk, ice cream, cheese, yogurt, and of course, butter; there is a plant-based replacement available.
Smart Balance is a popular buttery spread in the United States, so many vegans want to know if the different varieties of Smart Balance spread are vegan-friendly.
There are eight varieties of Smart Balance spread:
- Smart Balance Original
- Smart Balance Organic
- Smart Balance Omega-3
- Smart Balance Extra Virgin Oil
- Smart Balance Low Sodium
- Smart Balance Light with Flaxseed Oil
- Smart Balance Light with Extra Virgin Oil
- Smart Balance Light Omega-3
They’re all free from dairy ingredients, however, that doesn’t automatically mean they’re vegan. Unfortunately, most contain vitamin D3, which comes from lanolin, an animal-based ingredient. The only exceptions are Smart Balance Organic and Smart Balance Light with Flaxseed Oil, but they contain palm oil, a gray-area ingredient in the vegan community.
Smart Balance Ingredients [Analyzed]
Let’s look at the full list of ingredients in the Original Smart Balance spread and determine whether it is suitable for vegans.
Smart Balance spreads don’t have flagrant animal ingredients, or at the very least, popular ingredients that are typically avoided, particularly milk derivatives.
However, most Smart Balance spreads contain vitamin D3, which is synthesized from lanolin.
Lanolin Comes From Wool-Bearing Animals
Unfortunately, the vitamin D3 added to butter and other products like cereals is obtained from lanolin, a wax secreted by the sebaceous glands of wool-bearing animals.
Some vegans claim that because vitamin D3 is only present in small amounts, that makes it a justifiable reason to continue eating food products with vitamin D3. However, that doesn’t change the fact that lanolin remains an animal ingredient. The lanolin industry also relies heavily on mass-produced wool, which by vegan standards, it’s an industry that treats sheep horribly.
Even though sheep can live up to 17 years old, most farm-sheep are slaughtered before they reach six years old, with most being lambs. Sheep are transported long distances, sometimes more than 10 hours and in filthy conditions, just to be slaughtered. During this time, they can suffer from heatstroke, heart attacks, dehydration, and stress-related conditions.
Before being slaughtered, they’re often struck with electric currents, and occasionally wake up in a pool of their own blood, twitching in desperation.
Let me also point out that weeks after birth, baby sheep’s ears are punched, their tails are chopped off, and the males get castrated without anesthetic.
For the production of wool and lanolin, merino sheep are the breed that suffers the most, as we specifically bred them to have wrinkly skin in order to produce more wool.
This can lead to conditions like heat exhaustion that may cause death. Some wrinkles also collect urine that attract flies that lay their eggs in the folds of the skin – which upon hatching – feed on the sheep.
To prevent this parasitic infection called “fly strike”, the sheep are mulesed, a method in which wool farmers cut their skin and flesh without the use of anesthetics, causing even more suffering.
So, even if vitamin D3 merely used in trace amounts, we have to condemn the acts of cruelty that take place for the extraction of lanolin.
Some Varieties Contain Palm Oil
Earth Balance Organic and Smart Balance Light with Flaxseed Oil are two varieties that don’t contain vitamin D3, but contain palm oil, an ingredient that is avoided by some vegans.
While palm oil comes from a plant-based source, however, it is the major driver of deforestation of some of the world’s most biodiverse forests, destroying the habitat of already endangered species.
For example, a study conducted by Cell found that between 1999 and 2015, 100,000 Bornean orangutans died because of the demand for palm oil and other natural resources.
The study also suggests that many orangutangs, upon losing their habitat, get lost and end up dying at the hands of experienced hunters — which makes illegal trading also a substantial factor in the decline of orangutan population.
For this reason, palm oil is a controversial ingredient in the vegan community, and while it’s not transversal to the entire vegan community, some vegans attempt to avoid it.
Vegan Alternatives to Smart Balance
Here is a list of vegan butter alternatives we’ve found online:
- Milkadamia Salted Buttery Spread
- Forager’s Organic Vegan Butter
- Wayfare Foods Whipped Butter
- Wildbrine European-Style Cultured Cashew Butter
- Om Sweet Home Non-Dairy Butter Alternative
- Earth Balance Dairy-Free Butter
These are pretty delicious, particularly the spread from Milkadamia.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Smart Balance Soy Free?
Here is a piece of information I found by searching Smart Balance’s official website:
“Smart Balance uses natural saturates (palm fruit oil) and balances it with polyunsaturates from soy and canola oils. This comprises the patented Smart Balance blend we believe to be superior to other methods of avoiding trans fatty acids.”
However, I’ve analyzed the ingredients on the Original Smart Balance buttery spread (through Walmart’s listing) and I did not find soy-based ingredients, therefore I can’t confidently state whether it’s soy-free.
Is Smart Balance Gluten-Free?
According to Smart Balance, all their products are gluten-free. None of their products contain ingredients derived from cereals such as wheat, rye, spelt, or barley, nor do their products come into contact with other products that may contain gluten.
The Smart Balance buttery spread doesn’t contain flagrant animal ingredients like milk-derivatives, but it contains vitamin D3, which is an ingredient that is typically derived from lanolin.
The lanolin is obtained from wool-bearing animals, and therefore some vegans are not willing to consume vitamin D3, even though it’s only included in products in tiny amounts.
To summarize — the Smart Balance buttery spread is not suitable for vegans.