To fry with stability without using partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) makes extra care and controls necessary, according to Bob Johnson, director of R&D, Bunge Oils, Bradley, IL. In this exclusive Q&A, Baking & Snack talked to this expert about the challenges and successes of working with new oils.

Baking & Snack: Which baked products and/or snacks been most successful in making the switch away from frying fats and liquid oils that contain trans fatty acids? Why?

Bob Johnson: Formulators have found success in formulating trans fatty acids out of all types of products with varying degrees of success. The products that have continued to be most challenge have been icings and lamination fats because they require the greatest structuring and the most consistency in crystal structure over time. Formulators for many bakery products, such as cookies, have worked through several iterations of trans free products, where they have started with palm and worked through other saturate sparing technologies to bring the saturate levels down.

What must the formulator know about trans-free frying shortenings to ensure their successful use?

In moving to a trans free shortening for frying, the most critical aspects are the stability of the oil and the functional requirements. Frying oils need to have the oxidative stability to achieve shelf life in the finished product, but also the stability to withstand the abusive environment of the fryer. Oils with high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids are more prone to breakdown and polymerization. Polymerization can lead to need for more frequent cleaning of the fryer and downtime. For these reasons, many formulators have utilized the high oleic varieties of canola, sunflower and soy.

Some products like donuts require a solid frying shortening in order to achieve desired sugar and coating adhesion or to avoid wicking of oil out into the packaging material.

What changes are necessary for handling these fats in production plants? Compared with previous choices, will new trans-free fats require different in-plant storage conditions? Filtering frequency? Turnover rates? Temperature ranges?

As formulators move towards oils with higher levels of poyunsaturated fatty acids, they will need monitor oil quality more closely. Turnover rates for fryers will need to be managed more closely to ensure that breakdown is not outpacing carry-out, filtering frequency may need to be increased in order to remove particulates that accelerate breakdown, and fryer temperatures will need to be more closely controlled. In most instances for processors who handle oils in bulk, it is necessary to review or audit the bulk handling and storage system to ensure optimal handling within the constraints of the system or in some cases to identify capital needs for protection of the oils.

What does the future hold for continuing improvement in frying fats and liquid oils for bakery and snack use?

The higher oleic varieties of oils, such as canola, sunflower and soy offer great performance in frying and spraying applications along with a relatively low level of saturates. Future developments in this area will continue to focus on performance, on oil handling and protection of stability to ensure optimal performance.