High-oleic soy oil set to make its mark

by Laurie Gorton, Baking & Snack
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CHICAGO — High-oleic soybeans are coming ever closer to fulfilling their promise, according to news released by the United Soybean Board (USB) at this year’s Institute of Food Technologists, held in Chicago.

Commercialized in 2011, high-oleic soybean oil is now available from two major processors, ADM and Bunge, with two more suppliers, Cargill and Perdue, about to launch next year.

To expand seed production, cultivation and geographic availability of the new soybean varieties, USB and QUALISOY announced a pledge of $60 million over the next five years. USB projected 9 billion lb of high-oleic soybean oil would be available by 2023 to meet global demand.

“We expect supplies to be abundant,” said Steve Poole, USB’s director of nutrition and public relations. “We project that high-oleic soy could be 25% of the US crop eventually.”

The purpose of the new investment is three-fold, Mr. Poole explained. It will provide incentive to 1) grow the crop in geographical areas as wide as possible, 2) process it in as many plants as possible and 3) supply it as close as possible to users.

Desirable bakery performance with low saturated fats — and no trans fats — has always been the promise offered by high-oleic soybean oil.

Although commodity soy oil is plentiful, it requires partial hydrogenation to stabilize it for use in foods. Hydrogenation, however, also forms trans fats. When the Food and Drug Administration mandated labeling of trans fat content in the Nutrition Facts panel, the soy oil industry lost 4 billion lb of demand.

“We could make low-linolenic soy available, and we did. But it did not have the ideal fatty acid profile for most food applications,” Mr. Poole explained. “The move to high-oleic soy solves that matter.”

High-oleic soybean oil does not require hydrogenation for stability and, thus, offers a zero-trans solution to food manufacturers.

“Demand for products with zero grams trans fat and lower saturated fats continues to grow,” observed Richard Galloway, a QUALISOY consultant. “High-oleic soybean oil offers an economical and secure solution for food companies to meet that need as well as enhance functionality to make their businesses more successful. High-oleic soybean oils deliver highly stable products without sacrificing flavor.”

Two varieties have been developed: Plenish high-oleic soybeans from DuPont Pioneer, Johnson, IA, and Vistive Gold low-saturate, high-oleic soybeans from Monsanto, St. Louis. Both varieties have been deregulated — approved for unrestricted commercial production — by the US Department of Agriculture and most other countries except the EU and, in the case of Vistive Gold, China.

Mr. Galloway said that approval in the EU is expected sometime during 2014, while the Chinese regulatory process is taking a slower path.

The US currently produces approximately 24 billion lb of liquid vegetable oils, with soy being the dominant form.

“Soybean oil has the advantage of being directly traded,” Mr. Galloway said. Thus, it can be hedged on commodity markets to allow buyers to lock in their costs.

This type of soybean could be grown in as many as 75 million acres within North America. Mr. Galloway compared this to the 20 million acres available to canola, the other oilseed offering high-oleic traits.

Food manufacturing accounts for about 60% of soybean oil use in the US, according to Robert Reeves, QUALISOY’s public affairs director and formerly the president of the Institute of Shortening and Edible Oils.

Optimizing soybeans for higher oleic content produced beans lower in saturated fatty acids.  “All high-oleic varieties are also low in linolenic fatty acid, which improves their oxidative stability,” Mr. Reed said. This suits their use in deep frying and baked foods and as spray and pan-release oils.

The new high-oleic soybean oils are superior in heat stability to enhance their functionality in foods and extend the shelf life of finished products, he observed. The neutral flavor profile allows these oils to be blended with other liquid oils to tailor products to the specific needs of food processors.

Mr. Reed projected high-oleic soybean oils to reach 300 million lb in 2014, 750 million lb in 2015 and 9 billion lb by 2023. “And they will be available at a very competitive price,” he added.

QUALISOY was formed as a collaborative initiative uniting the soybean industry — farmers, seed companies, researchers, food manufacturers, soybean processors, agricultural organizations, feed manufacturers and trade associations. Its purpose is to deliver new and improved soybean traits to the marketplace. USB, governed by 69 farmer-directors, is funded by a crop checkoff program and overseen by the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service under the federal Soybean Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act, passed as part of the 1990 Farm Bill.
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