“On a quest to unlock the magic of butter: the fat, the texture, the melt-inside-your-mouth.” That’s the mission statement of Fora’s Fababutter. Made from aquafaba, coconuts, salt and nutritional yeast, the 100% dairy-free and chef-approved butter is available in Eataly stores and various restaurants across America.
“We have an interesting business model,” says co-founder Aidan Altman, who launched Fora in the fall of 2017 with his partner Andrew McClure. The pair were both born and raised in Michigan—Altman from metro Detroit and McClure from Grand Rapids, “West Side, yeah!”—and the two met at the University of Michigan before delving into the F&B industry.
With the idea of a dairy-free butter in which you could still melt it, cook with it and even bake with it, the team started researching some of the best brands in the biz they admired (think Kerrygold) and what early margarine products were made of, and thought how to mimic both products but with the use of cleaner ingredients. “We went through 60 to 80 variations,” says Altman, noting that one of the challenges they had to face was to figure out how to scale to an industrial level. Altman and McClure got the chef stamp of approval by submitting their recipe to chef-friends in the Chicago area. “It’s a whole process that was super difficult to get to, and once we got it, we [started] fundraising.”
Fora launched nationally—a bit out of the norm for many small homegrown food product businesses. “We wanted to make sure that our reach was very wide and wanted the right partners in place and the cash behind us,” Altman says earnestly. “We’re going for a strong impact with this product that’s more environmentally sustainable. Butter is a ubiquitous staple and everyone understands it—so we’re going out there with a product that is nutritionally sound and has the same integrity.” Fababutter is manufactured in Memphis and distributed nationally via Chefs' Warehouse; a host of different accounts from hotels to restaurants and pastry shops use Fababutter, including Saxon + Parole and Maman, both in New York City, and Tartine in San Francisco.
Now 25 and 26 years old, respectively, Altman and McClure are the only full-time employees at Fora and have immediate plans for global expansion—big dreams, no doubt, but with their atypical business model of outsourcing everything from logistics and operations teams to social media management, it works. “It’s a way for us to have experts in their respective fields,” says McClure.
“We really want to have a strong global environmental impact,” adds Altman. “We’re going to open manufacturing plants in Europe and Asia and we hope to become a household and restaurant staple brand. I would really like to become a huge competitor to butter and have a major impact in the supply chain.” The team also has a few tricks up its sleeve currently in research and development, hoping to launch other high-end dairy alternatives in the future.
“More philosophically,” adds McClure, “we would like to be a part of the change and overhaul of the global food system. Some people say it’s broken, and it’s not—we just need to bring food to people and we want to be a contributor to that effort.”
Hero image courtesy of Fora Foods.