Scathing Reviews Force Smart Balance To Bring Back Its Original Flavor

Smart Balance's "buttery spread" is free of unsaturated fats and has fewer calories than most margarine varieties; it's long positioned itself as a better-for-you alternative to butter, though not everyone recommends it. In 2002, Dr. Andrew Weil said of the product: "It is still fat, mostly unhealthy fat, and a highly processed food." The product also contains two grams of saturated fat and 105 milligrams of sodium per serving. But while much of the backlash against Smart Balance focuses on its nutritional breakdown, that's not where it ends. 

A change to the brand's "buttery spread" affected its flavor and texture, and it caused a massive uproar among consumers. "I've used Smart Balance Original since the beginning. The change is horrible," one customer wrote on the brand's website. "I hope this isn't a permanent change. This new stuff is flat and oily without any flavor," another person wrote. 

But what caused the change that has customers so displeased?

Smart Balance will go back to normal 'in the coming months'

Reducing a product's main ingredient by a third will not go undetected. Smart Balance demonstrated this very fact by cutting the vegetable fat in its buttery spread from 64% — which was already pushing the envelope, as the rule of thumb for margarine fat content is 80%, per ScienceDirect — to 39%, making water the number-one ingredient in the product, says Mouse Print.

Is the change in line with the Smart Balance mantra, "Simply put, we strive for better?" Edgar Dworsky from Mouse Print thinks not. He believes it is "skimpflation," a shrinkflation-like practice that occurs when companies use lower quality products to cut costs (per CBS News). Whatever Smart Balance's reasoning was, customers were incensed by the recipe change. Phrases like "The taste sucks," "Disgusting new formula," and "Ruined a good thing" populated the product review page on the Smart Balance website and summed up the reason for its current 1.2-star rating. One respondent elaborated: "The taste and texture are completely different and not for the better."

This dissent behooved Smart Balance's customer care to concede to Insider: "We have heard the feedback from consumers and have decided to return to the previous recipes in the coming months."