Formulators must weigh many factors when making shortening choices for baked foods. Trans-fat-free status is one aspect, but so are saturated fats. In this exclusive Baking & Snack Q&A, David Hughes, senior project manager, technical services, Ventura Foods, Brea, CA, describes the nutritional and performance factors involved and tells how the company developed a new smooth, butter-like, all-purpose bakery shortening.

Baking & Snack: What’s new among the fats and oils that Loders Croklaan supplies for bakery use?

David Hughes: Ventura has been able to take advantage of the selective fractionation of palm oil and the precise re-blending to achieve the ideal functionality for a wide array of bakery applications. This advanced blending is coupled with tightly controlled surface-swept crystallization that ensures superior uniform shortenings and margarines. As the final step of delivering the proper products, Ventura Foods has invested in the storage locations that hold the shortenings at the correct temperature for the required time resulting in ideal crystal formation.

Historically, emulsifiers have complemented the functional application of fats and oils. Ventura has moved the use of select emulsifiers to a new level of lipid application. Uniquely processed emulsifiers are now the foundation for creating low-saturated-fat all-purpose-type shortenings. Ntrans Shortening is made with a patented blending and crystallization process that delivers a product that meets some very demanding customer requirements relative to lower saturate fats that are not made with tropical oils. The difference between Ntrans and a typical palm oil shortening is a saturate level of 27% to 50%, respectively. This level of reduction shows up on even the smallest of food product serving sizes.

Ventura has achieved a consumer preference in its new European Style Butter Blends that meet the baking industry’s gold standard of “100% butter.” This item takes advantage of the state-of-the-industry interesterified blends and precise-control oil base, processed to an expected smooth, rich butter blend. The baker enjoys the consistency and uniformity of the blend over butter, a cost advantage and excellent nutritional values. Truly a win-win-win!

What benefits do these provide in bakery applications? How do they compare in performance to the partially hydrogenated fats that were previously the staple of the baking industry?

Starting in about 2005, the move to no-trans-fat (NTF) food products started in earnest. As this requirement became the law of significant local and state jurisdictions, many national food companies transitioned their shortening to meet the needs of NTF products. The primary benefit of the new generation of shortenings and margarines is to meet the nutritional needs of the marketplace. The nutritional needs are two-fold: the obvious NTF and, more recently, a need to reduce saturated fats.

What criteria, besides cost, do your bakery customers most value about these new fats, oils and shortenings? Why?

The key to the long-term success of any Ventura fat is based on the eating quality that the shortening delivers. This follows along with the historic performance of low-fat bakery items. Consumers will try them once, but if the taste does not satisfy their expectations, the items will be discontinued due to lack of sales.

A foundational part of a viable product roll-out is the ability of the shortening to be used in the manufacturing process. It the fat is too soft or too hard and cannot be correctly incorporated in the baked good, then benchtop results of a great product will have no future. Much of the handling issues at production facilities centers around good temperature control of the shortenings.

How important is the base fat (canola, corn, cottonseed, soy, sunflower, palm, peanut, etc.) in the formulator’s decision about which to use in a baked food or snack?

Formulators typically have a long list of internal and external customers to satisfy! To determine the best choice of oil(s), a balance of must be met, including the cost portion identified earlier. At Ventura, because we have such a large library of oil bases to offer, a thorough discussion of all of the expectations is the benefit our customers enjoy. As noted earlier, the nutritional profile is considered, functionality of the baked goods, availability, GMO status, sustainability, unique flavor profile and its stability, etc. This is a just a starting point of the factors in determining the optimum oil choice. Additionally, as the dynamics of the oil markets have become ever more volatile, it is imperative that the technical support staff work closely with sales when choosing the correct oil.

Looking ahead five years, what performance characteristics will be most important to bakers? Why?

The specter of the national obesity crisis will continue to drive the desire to reduce saturated fats in baked goods. Though this single step will not independently solve obesity, it does address some of the associated conditions of atherosclerosis. Continued work will be done to match the highly desirable lubricity of shortenings in foods but with a lower caloric item. The answer may come in select lipid combinations that do it all.