US Cornell University scientists have created a low-calorie butter-like spread that consists of 80% water and small drops of vegetable oil and milk fat.

The spread mimicked the look and texture of dairy butter without the use of artificial stabilisers, Food Navigator wrote on 21 August.

A tablespoon of the spread contained 2.8g of fat and 25.2 calories, compared to a tablespoon of butter which had about 11g of fat and 100 calories. Typically, dairy butter also consisted of 84% fat and about 16% water.

Low fat spreads had approximately 40% fat and reduced fat spreads typically contained 60%.

To create the water-based spread, scientists used high-internal phase emulsions (HIPE) by which “we keep adding water to the oil until the final composition is 80% water and 20% oil,” said food science professor and author of the study, Alireza Abbaspourrad.

Food Navigator said consumers had been embracing fats in a variety of formats including whole-fat dairy products and butter, increasingly ignoring low-calorie alternatives such as margarine,

Margarine/spreads sales were down -4.5% in 2017 and declined another -3.1% in 2018, according to US market research firm IRI’s Total US Multi-Outlet sales data.

The declines could be attributed to the processed nature and artificial ingredients associated with many margarine and spreads products, traits consumers tended to avoid, IRI vice president of client insights, dairy, John Crawford noted in October 2018.