Ah, spray butter. To the un-indoctrinated, that might sound like a futuristic condiment from The Jetsons. But to anyone who lived through the 1990s, those words will make you immediately sense an oily mist of nostalgia in the air.
If you’re not familiar with spray butter, it’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like: "butter" (actually a soybean oil-based liquid) that you can spray from a bottle. People would mist it on corn and other vegetables, and any other dish they wanted to butter. The condiment is actually still available today, and, in recent years there have been multiple gadgets created to quickly turn a stick of real butter into a spray at home. (Anybody remember the Biem Butter Sprayer pitch on Shark Tank?) But spray butter as we know it is most commonly associated with its heyday, the 1990s.
If you haven’t kept up on the condiment since then, here’s a bit of history on what happened to the once-almighty spray butter.
Though many companies have come out with their own spray butters, the most popular version was made by the brand I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter. According to the company’s website, the product debuted in 1994. Many Americans at the time seemed to be afraid of fats, a sentiment that NPR says was sparked by a 1976 U.S. Senate hearing on the role that fats played in Americans' health problems.
With consumers bee-lining away from fatty condiments like butter and reaching for substitutes like margarine, the vegetable oil-based I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter spray became the perfect '90s food fad. It was so easy to use: You just pointed it at the food you wanted to butter, pressed the button, and it instantly covered your food in a buttery mist. And with an iconic commercial starring Italian-American model and actor Fabio Lanzoni, it was launched into the cultural zeitgeist.
The commercial, which was a part of the company’s ongoing campaign with Fabio, sees a modern housewife live out her romance-novel dreams with the model. The dream sequence seems too good to be true, as Fabio announces “I can’t believe it’s not butter… spray” with a wink to camera before a narrator reveals the product contains no fat or calories. (A 2018 class-action lawsuit would eventually push back on these claims, citing unrealistic serving sizes as the reason behind the statistics.)
Popular margarine brand Parkay also launched a spray butter, though I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter’s seems to be the product that remains in most people's memories.
If you’re feeling up for a creamy dose of nostalgia, you might be wondering if spray butter is still available today. Though loads of '90s products like Choco Tacos have been discontinued, spray butter is indeed still misting its way into the market—though with considerably less popularity.
So why did spray butter never supersede butter? Despite its seemingly perfect emergence amidst a fat free-crazed era, spray butter’s demise coincided with the decline of margarine.
The Takeout reports that the fall of margarine was most likely caused by popular studies that revealed trans fats, like those in margarine, to be much more harmful than saturated fats, like those in butter. According to The Takeout, butter officially reclaimed the lead in consumer sales over margarine in 2005, and appears to be on a steady incline going forward.
So, whether you’re looking for some nostalgia or just want to support the dying margarine industry, you might be pleased to know that you can still buy a bottle of sprayable butter online and at most grocery stores. Just remember that most options out there aren't actually butter, if you can believe it.2023-03-07T23:06:00Z dg43tfdfdgfd