Sometimes you have to dig down to the molecular level to solve problems. That’s what enzymatic interesterification does. Bunge Oils took one step further into triacylglycerol (triglyceride) mismatch and then improved the result by adding dietary fiber.

“Each fatty acid has specific functionality,” said Dilip Nakhasi, director of innovation, Bunge Oils, Bradley, IL. “We asked how we could manipulate the combinations of fatty acids that make up triglycerides.” Company oil chemists sought to make the hardest fats possible without hydrogenation and determined which ones could hold the most liquid oils when they crystallize. They looked at stearic and palmitic fatty acids specifically and experimented with placing them at various positions on the triglyceride’s glycerol backbone.

Then, they added fiber to solve the problem of wicking, the migration of liquid oil out of the crystalline structure. “It’s an idea that works in cheeses and other plastic foodstuffs, so why not shortening?” Mr. Nakhasi observed. “Fiber acts like capillaries and creates a network, a cage of sorts, that holds the liquid oil in the system.”

The result, Ultrablend Saturate Sparing shortening, proved desirably plastic in consistency with less than 18% saturated fats — a 40% reduction compared with traditional shortenings.

Researchers tested the new shortening in a full array of baked foods: cookies, biscuits, pie crusts, pound cakes, layer cakes and icings. “We put it through the wringer in our in-house bakery lab,” Mr. Nakhasi said.