The changing world of oils

by Donna Berry
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Although just recently commercialized, high-oleic oils have rapidly expanded in crop size, projected to be 400 million lb this year and 9.3 billion lb by 2024.

Consumers’ quest for simple, minimally processed and sustainably produced foods and ingredients poses many challenges for commercial bakers who must also consider economics in their operations. This is particularly true when selecting fats and oils, also known as lipids, because they vary significantly in their performance, sourcing and overall appeal.

Fat is a necessary ingredient in many baked goods, and never have there been so many options available to bakers. It is important for bakers to understand their choices to best identify the lipid that meets a product’s quality, shelf life and nutrition requirements as well as market positioning. The latter is increasingly trending to the health-and-wellness demographic, a group who knows their fats.

“We have experienced an increasing number of customers beginning to label and reformulate products to meet the demand for healthier, non-genetically modified and natural foods,” said Jennifer Tesch, chief marketing officer, Healthy Food Ingredients.

Research shows that, after sugar, fat is the second-most important ingredient that North American consumers monitor on food product labels, according to Cargill’s FATitudes primary research on consumers’ perspective of fats and oils in North America. The study showed that the type of fat and its claim may impact the likelihood of purchase.

“We know from FATitudes that 67% of consumers are checking for saturated fat in the products they buy,” said Mark Christiansen, managing director, Cargill global edible oil solutions, global specialties. “About 50% of all consumers are likely to purchase a product with a ‘no saturates’ claim.”

Many suppliers are making progress lowering specialty oils’ saturated fat content and in their efforts to find suitable replacements for partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs). As the largest source of artificial trans-fatty acids in the American diet, PHOs were stripped of their Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) status by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They must be removed from the food supply by June 18, 2018. After this date, no PHOs can be added to human food unless they are otherwise approved by FDA.

“As our industry transitions to the regulated removal of PHOs from the food formulators’ toolbox, baking and snack providers are in need of fat and oil solutions to overcome functionality challenges,” said Terry Thomas, president, AAK USA, Inc.

Although solid animal fats are often the best functional choice for many baked goods because they are highly stable and flavorful, their use is a deterrent to vegans. For some consumers, the high concentration of saturated fatty acids in butter and lard is unappealing, and bakers find their variable price to be unwelcome.

Plant-derived fats and oils are the logical alternative. They are vegan-compliant, but beyond that, many have plant-specific shortcomings. Here’s how suppliers are overcoming these limitations.

Read on to learn more about the evolution of oilseed usage.

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