When consumers had to DIY for their margarine buy

It wasn't butter. And anger was spreading over the Ontario government's refusal to allow sales of coloured margarine to consumers.

In Ontario, yellow tint had the be mixed in manually by the consumer in 1961

Mixing colour into margarine

2 years ago
A woman tells CBC why she buys margarine, despite its considerable inconvenience. 2:19

Consumers who were interested in saving money on a spread for their bread in 1961 didn't have to cough up the cash for butter. 

So long as they didn't mind its pasty white shade, or mixing in the yellowish dye that made oleo more visually appealing, many considered margarine an acceptable substitute.

But it wasn't necessary in some parts of Canada, where the yellow tint was added at the point of manufacture.

Not so in Ontario, where mixing in the colour was strictly do-it-yourself.  

'Irritating chore'

Mixing colour into a pound of margarine was a two-hour task, from the time the package came out of the fridge to when it was ready to be served. (Newsmagazine/CBC Archives)

"For housewives ... the home colouring of margarine is a time-consuming and irritating chore," said Norman Depoe, host of CBC's Newsmagazine, in January 1961.     

When purchased at the store, margarine was a pale white substance that bore little resemblance to butter.

"Why do you buy margarine?" a CBC reporter asked a woman identified as Mrs. John Sezlik, as she aggressively kneaded a package in her hands.

"I find margarine the better buy," she said. "You get twice as much for your money." 

She was kneading the packet in order to mix in the dye that came with the margarine — a two-hour process that she said made her "blood boil."

"Whose fault it it?" asked the reporter.

"The dairy farmers of Canada," she replied. "They are over-represented in our provincial legislature ... it's not right that a few dairy farmers should be allowed to dictate to thousands of Canadian homemakers."

Protest at Queen's Park 

A woman in a fur coat was among the protesters kneading margarine during a demonstration at Queen's Park in Ontario. (Newsmagazine/CBC Archives)

Mrs. Sezlik said it was time for homemakers to organize to "make the men that make the laws" and do something about the "injustice" of white margarine. 

Newsmagazine then went to a rally of the Toronto Margarine Committee, the members of which were doing just that.

"Men as well as women marched on the Ontario government building," said Depoe, as the camera showed a group of people kneading margarine or mixing it in a bowl with a wooden spoon.

"They paused on the main steps and tried to mix colour into margarine in sub-freezing weather." 

In April 1963, following legislation passed by the government of Ontario, coloured margarine went on sale in stores in the province.

Four others still prohibited it, according to the Globe and Mail: Alberta, Saskatchewan, Quebec and New Brunswick.

No margarine at all was permitted in Prince Edward Island at the time. It became the last province to remove a ban on  the sale of margarine, coloured or not, in March 1965.