Sunflower oil
Suppliers explain the advantages of high performance sunflower oils in a pho-free world.

BISMARCK, N.D. — As partially hydrogenated oils are on the way out, the National Sunflower Association doesn’t want food manufacturers to forget sunflower oil as a replacement option. At an event in Bismarck, the association hosted suppliers and trade media to discuss the evolution of fats and oils in the food industry and sunflowers’ role as a replacement oil.

Consumers have a lot of concerns when it comes to the ingredients used in food manufacturing, and that influences the concerns of food manufacturers. When it comes to fats and oils, bakers and snack makers are trying to meet consumer demands for clean label, sustainability and nutrition while also meeting their own formulating needs for functional, stable fats and oils at a competitive price. And they’re not just looking to fulfill one of these needs; they are often looking to satisfy four or five, said Erik Heggen, president, North American Refined Oils, ADM.

Erik Heggen, ADM
Erik Heggen, president, North American Refined Oils, ADM

“Sunflower oil checks a lot of the boxes we need to reach consumers today,” Mr. Heggen said during his presentation on the latest food trends.

NUSUN, mid-oleic sunflower oil, and HOSUN, high-oleic sunflower oil, offer bakers and snack manufacturers’ stability, clean flavor, longer shelf life and options low in saturated fat. HOSUN, the more stable of the two, works well in snack frying applications that use continuous frying where frying conditions are controlled and hood configurations are optimized, said Diliara Iassonova, Ph.D., innovation director, Oils & Shortening R.&D., Cargill.  Dr. Iassonova presented on the formulating challenges of replacing phos in snack and bakery applications. NUSUN, though less stable than its high-oleic counterpart, has the right fatty acid composition for frying in foodservice settings.

Sunflower oil, whether commodity or in its high-performance forms, only has 10% saturated fat and is therefore a liquid oil. It may be used to prolong shelf life and deliver clean flavor in applications that don’t require the solid fat structure, such as crackers. To be used in bakery applications that do require solid fat, sunflower oil would need to be blended with fully hydrogenated oil, palm or interesterified to gain the structure necessary.

Antioxidants naturally present in the oil helps protect oil flavor and shelf life. If bakers or snack producers need to lengthen that shelf life even more, they can also add antioxidants to the oil.

“HOSUN doesn’t have the highest antioxidant level, but it’s the combination with high oleic content that makes the oil stable,” said Brian Owens, vice-president, risk management and procurement, Stratas Foods.

Mr. Owens explained in his presentation how non-G.M.O. high oleic sunflower oil compares to other non-G.M.O. oils.

Grown in the United States, high performance sunflower oil benefits from domestic sourcing. Its functionality, stability, flavor and nutritional profile allows it to satisfy several food trends at once. And as supply improves, the price is expected to follow.