Post-PHO emulsifiers change the game

by Laurie Gorton
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The next generation emulsifiers are still made from a variety of vegetable oils, such as soy, palm, coconut, sunflower or canola.
 

Emulsifier makers look to palm for the performance needed in bakery applications. In this exclusive Baking & Snack Q&A session, two Kerry Americas experts — Ryan Smith, general manager, bakery and dairy; and Tim Cottrell, director of business development, emulsifiers and texturants — describe the transition of these functional bakery ingredients out of PHOs.

 

Baking & Snack: What trends explain the renewed interest in emulsifiers? How much does sustainability or GMO status figure into these trends?

 

Ryan Smith: There are so many trends playing a part in food formulations these days — and they change almost weekly. While the reason for having emulsifiers on an ingredient declaration is not always understood by consumers, the benefits that they bring are clear — allowing cost-effective commercial production of wholesome food products with good keeping qualities.

 

As new Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations that ban the use of partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) come into play, emulsifiers will play an increasing role in product quality. Further to the ban on partially hydrogenated oils, many customers now want to move away from all hydrogenated oils, which leaves palm oil and its derivatives as the only viable base oil to use to make emulsifiers.

 

Tim Cottrell: Palm oil is the most abundant vegetable oil on the planet, and the palm tree is arguably the most efficient at producing oil when you compare yield per hectare with other oil crops like soy or canola. Palm oils are partially solid at room temperature, and fractions of palm oil are selected that have quite high melting points needed by food processors. Palm oil is free of genetic modification and so is inherently non-GMO.

 

There are lots of good reasons to use palm products. However, because of the increasing pressure on demand, there is an increasing pressure for palm plantations to expand — at the expense of the tropical forest. There are several organizations that have been established to document or certify that the palm oil producers are producing responsibly. All North American users of food products produced from palm oil are now demanding the products be produced using sustainable palm. Depending on the level of detail needed, palm oil can be certified by an association, such as the Round Table for Sustainable Palm (RSPO), that it is produced under a mass balance or segregated model.

 

Mr. Smith: Kerry has a strong commitment to sustainability and the ethical treatment of workers and is, therefore, committed to exclusively sourcing raw materials from suppliers who share these values. Kerry’s global emulsifier manufacturing footprint offers the largest selection of non-PHO and non-GMO emulsifiers as well as many non-GM non-palm offerings for those customers who choose to avoid soy or palm products.

 

How have the raw materials from which you make your emulsifiers changed in the past few years? What should bakery formulators know about the derivation of this new generation of emulsifiers?

 

Mr. Cottrell: The next generation emulsifiers are still made from a variety of vegetable oils, such as soy, palm, coconut, sunflower or canola. What has changed in recent months is the move away from the variety of soy offerings that ranged from hard fully hydrogenated products through the semi soft paste-type range made by partially hydrogenated soy to liquid oils that stabilized made from a “brush” hydrogenation. FDA has made it clear that partially hydrogenated oils will be banned in the upcoming months while still allowing the use of fully hydrogenated oils. However, even the fully hydrogenated oils are being formulated out of many food companies’ offerings.

 

Mr. Smith: Kerry successfully uses a variety of palm oils and fractions of palm oils in our Myverol and Myvatex emulsifiers to achieve an entire range of products that mimic the melting properties and functionalities of emulsifiers made from the conventional PHOs. Bakers should be confident is replacing their conventional water-dispersible monoglycerides emulsifiers with Kerry’s drop-in replacements.

 

Is the activity of next-generation emulsifiers different from that of previous ones?

 

Mr. Cottrell: When moving away from conventional emulsifiers to emulsifiers produced without PHOs or hydrogenation, there will be slight differences in the solid fat indices over the working temperature range in production. The new-generation emulsifiers have inherently lower melting points, so they may require slightly slower blending speeds, changes in the order of addition or addition of free-flowing agents to prevent greasing out of the softer products during blending.

 

Mr. Smith: Any change in emulsifiers needs to be carefully monitored during initial trials for subtle differences in handling and processability, in addition to how it performs in the final application. Kerry recommends starting with a 1:1 replacement. However, in several applications, such as in dough conditioners, the next-generation Myvatex emulsifiers have found to be effective at slightly lower usage levels compared with the conventional products.

 

What factors should a formulator consider when matching an emulsifier to a bakery use? To optimize the use of these next-generation emulsifiers, do they require changes in bakery formulations?

 

Mr. Cottrell: It is important to realize that the iodine value is not comparable when evaluating monoglycerides made from different vegetable oils and particularly not suitable for comparing a conventional emulsifier made from partially hydrogenated soy with a next-generation emulsifier made from selected palm oil fractions. In most cases, such as in a bread or tortilla application when a baker is replacing a conventional monoglyceride-type emulsifier with the next-generation product, the simplest guide is to match the specification with special focus on the melting properties of the two products. The bakery should compare not only the melt point of the product but the melt properties thoughout the entire temperature range of production. The Differential Scanning Calorimeter (DSC) or equipment for profiling the solid fat content would be ideal for this comparison work.

 

Mr. Smith: In more sophisticated bakery applications such as cakes the best approach is to completely rethink the engineering of the cake/batter systems. Upon until recently, good quality cakes or cake mixes have relied on using conventional emulsified shortenings that contain PHOs and monodiglycerides. While one approach to comply with new regulations is to use a non PHO trans free type shortening and find a monoglyceride made without PHOs. Kerry has developed a more successful and sophisticated approach by re-engineering the cake batter system and completely remove the need for a plastic or paste type shortening. The Myvalite 1967 NT cake emulsifier system allows bakers to prepare exceptional quality cakes while simply using salad oil like canola in the recipe therefore dramatically reducing saturated fats while also eliminating trans fats and partially hydrogenated oils. This new method of cake making also decouples the emulsifier from the shortening, which greatly reduces complexity and the drops the costs associated with emulsified shortenings.
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