Choose a marketing message for healthier fats

by Jeff Gelski
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Consumers are interested in eating healthier fats and oils. Food formulators may want to know what marketing messages resonate with consumers and how their products may meet the demands of specific healthier fat messages. Recent surveys and ingredient innovations may provide assistance in creating products free of trans fat, reduced in saturated fats, free of hydrogenation or all of the above.

The 2009 International Food Information Council Food & Health Survey actually showed avoidance of trans fats and saturated fats lessening. Sixty-four per cent of respondents said they were trying to consume less trans fat, down from 75% in 2007, and 63% said they were trying to consume less saturated fat, down from 70% in 2007.

For the first time, the survey asked consumers whether they were trying to consume more or less partially hydrogenated oils or hydrogenated oils. The percentage trying to consume less was at 56% for both types of oils.

The United Soybean Board’s 16th annual "Consumer Attitudes About Nutrition: Insights into Nutrition, Health & Soyfoods" asked consumers what fats they viewed as very/somewhat healthy. Nine per cent said trans fats, the same percentage as last year, and 7% said saturated fats, up one percentage point from last year.

Both trans fats and saturated fats increase L.D.L., or "bad", cholesterol. While partial hydrogenation causes trans fats, the Food and Drug Administration mandates food manufacturers state "0 grams of trans fat" on the Nutrition Facts Panel if each serving of the product contains less than 0.5 grams. A product with partially hydrogenated oil thus will have trans fat in it although the Nutrition Facts Panel may say "0 grams of trans fat."

Smart Balance, Inc., Paramus, N.J., wants to educate consumers about this situation through its "Zero Isn’t Zero" campaign launched this year through advertising in print, on television and on the Internet. Smart Balance spreads have as little as 0.07 grams of trans fat per serving. Competing brands may have five to six times as much.

"Our Zero Isn’t Zero campaign about trans fat is beginning to gain nice traction with the consumer," said Steve Hughes, chairman and chief executive officer of Smart Balance, in a May 7 earnings conference call. "Our research indicates that 60% of all consumers believe trans fats are to be avoided and minimized in their diet."

Turning to fats and oils suppliers, Minneapolis-based Cargill is prepared for increased consumer avoidance of saturated fats. The company will make its Clear Valley low-saturate canola oil available for testing next spring. At 4% to 4.5% saturated fat, the oil has 25% less saturated fat than conventional canola oil.

"We want to make sure that if saturated fat becomes an issue, we have the solution as well," said Willie Loh, assistant vice-president of marketing, Oils and Shortenings, for Cargill.

Caravan Ingredients, Lenexa, Kas., this year launched Trancendim, a technology for diglycerides. The product offers ways to make products free of trans fat with significant reductions in saturated fat. Trancendim works in shortenings for bakery applications, including cakes, cookies, Danish, icing, frying, puffed pastries and laminated products.

Consumers and food manufacturers also may want to investigate the differences among saturated fats. Although completely saturated, Neobee Medium Chain Triglycerides (M.C.T.s) from Stepan, Maywood, N.J., have little effect on cholesterol levels under normal circumstances, according to Stepan. Unlike typical long-chain fats that travel through the body’s lymphatic system, Neobee M.C.T.s are transported directly to the liver, where they are preferentially burned for energy.

Neobee M.C.T.s have no trans fats and increase satiety, which makes them well-suited for use in reduced-fat foods, according to Stepan.

Reduced trans fats, reduced saturated fats and no hydrogenation are all possible when working with Es-Sence non-hydrogenated shortening blends from AarhusKarlshamn USA Inc., Port Newark, N.J. The blends formulate with canola, soybean, sunflower or safflower oils. Combining a proprietary hardstock derived from palm and palm kernel oils with liquid oil allows relatively low levels of saturated fat to be achieved while delivering performance in applications generally demanding more saturated fat, according to AarhusKarlshamn.

The line of EsSence brand shortenings comes with various melting points and solid fat curves.

This article can also be found in the digital edition of Food Business News, June 23, 2009, starting on Page 40. Click
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