Baking applications require a diverse array of oil and shortening functionalities. Partially hydrogenated oil provided a one-size-fits-all solution for many applications in the past. With the pressure to remove trans fats from food products, bakers face a particularly complicated challenge as the food industry strives to meet consumer demand for better-for-you food products and formulate products with 0 g of trans fat per serving.

Many solutions will emerge through advanced oil processing techniques and the use of oils that have been modified through advanced breeding techniques or through biotechnology to improve the fatty acid profile. For the past 15 years, the US soybean industry has worked to develop soybean varieties with enhanced compositional traits. The resulting oils eliminate the need for hydrogenation and deliver a new set of solutions for many food products including baked food applications. The next challenge facing both the baking and soybean oil industries will be identifying and implementing the proper oil — or blend of oils — for each product.

Developing soybean oils and shortenings with low or 0 g of trans fat per serving for baking applications is more complicated than for frying applications. In frying, oil primarily functions as a heat transfer medium. While paying consideration to taste and physical characteristics, manufacturers can select oils as needed for light-, medium- or heavy-duty applications.

By contrast, the functional requirements for bakery oils and shortenings are more diverse and can be quite complex. Bakers often rely on formulations containing blends of multiple components. Shortening selection is specific to each application and to the finished-product requirements.

The baking industry requires hundreds of different types of shortenings to meet the needs of products ranging from breads, rolls, cakes and icings to cookies, pastries, fillings and confections. Industrial bakeries aim to limit the number of shortenings they use by selecting a multipurpose shortening when possible.

Oil processors are making significant progress in removing trans fats from many shortening formulations. However, these new formulations typically offer a more narrow range of performance, limiting their applications. As a result, bakeries find it necessary to increase the number of shortenings used to maintain production of their full line of products.

Bakeries also face a challenge when product testing shows flavor differences between products made with new and old shortening formulations. In the past, the industry ideal for taste testing was to demonstrate no difference between test and control products. Now, food scientists seek a match or a win on overall product preference, not necessarily an exact match in flavor profile.

The techniques used to make these shortenings include blending, interesterification and reduced hydrogenation. The starting materials include commodity oils, trait-enhanced oils, solid and liquid components from fractionated oils and fully hydrogenated oils. The oil refining industry uses all of these techniques and materials to replace trans fat in shortenings, but keeping pace with the growing demand from bakeries is a significant challenge.

Trait-enhanced soybean oils offer the best opportunity for increasing production of shortenings with 0 g trans fat per serving to meet the growing needs of the baking industry. Baked food manufacturers interested in testing the enhanced-trait oils should communicate interest to oil suppliers now because quantities will be limited during the first few years of production.

The first to emerge from the research pipeline, lowlinolenic soybean oil, is an effective option for many snack food applications. Many in the baking industry, however, are eagerly anticipating the commercialization of increased oleic soybean oils, including highand mid-oleic varieties, which will more effectively address the specific functionality requirements of baked food applications.


High-oleic soybean oil will contain more than 70% oleic acid. It also has decreased levels of linolenic and linoleic acids, increasing the oil’s oxidative stability. Testing conducted at Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Johnston, IA, showed high-oleic oil to be as stable as commonly used partially hydrogenated oils. Additionally, high-oleic soybean oil will contain a lower total saturated fat content than commodity soybean oil.

High-oleic soybean oil’s superior resistance to flavor breakdown will make it an attractive option for snack food applications, especially those requiring high-heat processing. Breads, cakes, muffins and pizza dough will also benefit from this oil.

Researchers at Pioneer, a division of DuPont, have developed the first high-oleic soybean oil expected to become commercially available. TREUS brand higholeic soybean oil will be marketed through the Bunge DuPont Biotech Alliance, which also markets TREUS low-linolenic soybean oil. Testing samples are expected to be available in late 2009 with full commercial introduction likely in 2010, pending regulatory approvals.


Soybean oil with increased oleic acid in combination with decreased linolenic acid offers dramatically improved oxidative stability compared with regular commodity oil. Midoleic/low-linolenic soybean oil will offer bakeries a spray oil for crackers, a coating oil for baked foods and a blending component for formulating numerous types of margarines and shortenings. Using this oil in combination with interesterification will expand options for making shortening with 0 g trans fat per serving.

Asoyia’s Mid-Oleic Ultra Low Lin Oil (Asoyia-MO) is made from soybeans containing more than 50% oleic acid and less than 1% linolenic acid. Asoyia, Iowa City, IA, reports the resulting oil is shelf-stable for two to three times longer than commodity soybean oil and contains 0 g trans fat per serving. Commercialization of Asoyia-MO is expected as early as 2011.


Stearic acid is, by definition, a type of saturated fat. However, research studies conducted by both government and nongovernment organizations have demonstrated that, while other types of saturated fats raise cholesterol levels in humans, stearic acid has a neutral effect on blood cholesterol levels.

Researchers examining soybean oil with increased stearic acid have found that increasing the oil’s stearic acid content to about 25% yields a margarine-like base material. Therefore, high-stearic soybean oil is a potentially viable option for food companies needing an oxidatively stable oil that does not contribute trans fat or a cholesterolraising type of saturated fat.

High-stearic soybean oil appears to offer the best direct alternative to the partially hydrogenated basestock used to formulate a wide range of shortening products. This oil offers increased product stability in storage, baking and possibly frying applications.

High-stearic soybean oil is expected to be commercialized in 2011. However, limited quantities may be available sooner.


Longchain omega-3 fatty acids are important dietary components for heart health, among other protective effects. Soybean oil is one of the few non-fish sources of omega-3s. While fish oil is the preferred source of omega-3s because of the bioavailability of eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA) acid, the alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) in soybean oil is the principal source of omega-3s in the American diet.

Researchers at St. Louis, MObased Monsanto and Solae (with its majority owner DuPont) are currently developing soybeans with increased amounts of longchain omega-3s, including stearidonic acid (SDA), EPA and DHA to meet the growing demand for heart-healthy ingredients. The resulting oils will contain more than 25% long-chain omega-3s and are expected to become commercially available after 2010.

Pending further trial and regulatory approvals, increased omega-3 soybeans will be among the first food products to offer direct human nutritional benefits achieved through agricultural biotechnology.

Oils containing increased omega-3s will require special handling and are not intended to formulate shortening. Baking companies may someday use increased omega-3 soybean oil as a food additive in fillings and toppings to increase the nutritional benefits of their baked foods.


Among the major vegetable oils consumed in the US, soybean oil significantly outpaces all other types of edible oils combined. In 2008, soybean oil accounted for more than 71% of the edible oils market in the US. The neutral flavor, balanced fatty acid profile and competitive cost of soybean oil have made it the preferred choice for food processors.

To address the evolving needs of the food industry, US soybean growers and their industry partners continue to collaborate on oil solutions that will help the baking industry deliver better-foryou products while maintaining product quality and stability.

“For the past 15 years, US soybean growers have invested in initiatives to address the trans fat issue and deliver innovative solutions to the food industry,” said Steve Poole, director of human health and nutrition communications for the United Soybean Board. “We are proud of the work we’ve done through the soybean checkoff to protect the health of American consumers and provide solutions for the food industry. USB looks forward to the commercialization of increased oleic soybean oils that will specifically meet the needs of the baking industry.”

Don Banks is a consultant to the United Soybean Board. Mr. Banks is president of Edible Oil Technology, a consulting firm that provides expertise to an international client base for the production and use of soybean oils.