Today’s consumers seek “functional nutrition” from their foods, thus changing expectations for baked products. Times have changed, and so have the fats and oils that bakers use. In this exclusive Baking & Snack Q&A, Roger Daniels, vice-president of R&D and innovation at Stratas Foods, Memphis, TN, tells how — and why — these changes have taken place.

Baking & Snack: What’s new among the fats and oils that Stratas Foods supplies for bakery use?
Roger Daniels:
Today’s theme with bakery companies is “Functional Nutrition.” This is an evolution in the equities historically requested of a bakery product denoted as products that deliver on taste, quality and convenience.

Today’s bakery shortening ingredients are required to contribute the desired attributes to the finished products such as flakiness in Danish and croissants, aeration in cake frostings and tenderness texture in cakes and cookies while maximizing levels of mono- and poly-unsaturated fatty acids and minimizing saturated fatty acids.

Stratas Foods has a broad portfolio of edible oil options including, but not limited to, soybean, canola, cottonseed, high-oleic canola, high-oleic sunflower, palm oil and palm kernel oil fractions and high-oleic soybean oil.

The innovation that Stratas Foods continues to bring forward in the bakery shortening category is customized blends and enzyme interesterification approaches to put the right fatty acid combinations together to achieve nutritional shortenings that focus on functionality first.

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?

Careful selection of base oils with preferred fatty acid combinations coupled with proprietary votation approaches have positioned Stratas to deliver consistent bakery shortenings that approach and, in many cases, match the functionality of partially hydrogenated fats for commercial bakery applications.

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

“Functional Nutrition” as a theme in bakery ingredients has contained within it the implication that the performance achieved is consistent time and time again. Bakery products companies have unique processing equipment and processes that benefit from Stratas Foods shortenings due to the development approach that confers consistent functionality first with appropriate nutritional attributes.

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?

Base fat selection in a bakery or snack product is incredibly important. The sum of functionality contribution, nutritional profile, supply and optimized supply chain dynamics helps a formulator achieve the best option for their end-use application. As a rule of thumb, domestically sourced base oils are given a priority “look see” versus off-shore fat sources.

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

Five years hence the performance characteristics sought today will continue to be in place — taste, quality, and convenience. In addition, the bakery and snack shortening sources will be optimized and customized to enable the bakery and snack manufacturer to offer product options based on oil and fat systems which are naturally stable (i.e., high in monounsaturates), saturates selected and enhanced with natural sources of phytonutrients. Specifically, the mid-term time horizon is one in which the use of high-oleic oils will continue to increase, nutritional sciences will better understand the importance and impact of saturates, and nutritionists and food scientists will identify and promote phytonutrients that are able to confer functional and nutritional benefits.