PG used to hear old timers talk about margarine being a white paste. The consumer would add the yellow color later. This bit of information had gone undisturbed for many years, until the 12:58 point of the Useless Information Podcast. There was a 1947 radio commercial for Delrich E-Z Color Pak.
Delrich E-Z margarine came in a plastic bag, along with a capsule. You broke the capsule, and yellow dye flowed out. You knead the bag, until the dye mixes with the margarine. It was considered an improvement over the mixing bowl.
Margarine was invented in 1869. “French chemist Hippolyte Mège-Mouriès … patented a lower priced spread made from beef tallow. He dubbed it oleomargarine–from the Latin oleum, meaning beef fat, and the Greek margarite, meaning pearl, this last for its presumably pearlescent luster.”
The dairy industry saw margarine as unfair competition for butter. In 1886, the federal Margarine Act was passed. Many oppressive taxes and regulations were put in place. Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Ohio enacted a legislative ban on the use of margarine.
Most butter is dyed. The rich yellow that we associate with butter only comes from grass fed cows. If the cows are grain fed, butter is a pale yellow.
Yellow was more appealing than pink. In an effort to further demonize margarine, Vermont, New Hampshire, and South Dakota required margarine to be dyed pink. The Supreme Court overturned the pink laws, citing the laws’ effect on interstate commerce.
During World War II, butter was in short supply. Margarine became more popular. Finally, the laws requiring the sale of white margarine were repealed. Wisconsin kept the white margarine law until 1967, and forbade use of margarine in public places, unless requested, until 1971. Pictures for this feature are from “The Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library”.