You may tell consumers about the reduced amount of trans and saturated fats in your grainbased food products. You may educate them on the traits of the oils used, be they from palm, soybean, canola, sunflowerseed or cottonseed. But above all else, remember consumers want to hear about healthier oils.
"The current market objective obviously is zero trans, and behind that is a push for lesser saturates," said Frank Stynes, senior vice-president of industrial sales, Ventura Foods, L.L.C., Brea, Calif. "Beyond that, customers are looking for healthier oils.
"Fats perform so many vital functions within formulation: They transport flavor easily, enhance flavor and provide structure and texture, among other things. The truth is we’re not going to live without them, so the goal is to live with them in a more healthful manner. And our corporate responsibility is to provide customers with a wide range of healthier, yet highly functional, fats and oils that provide the performance and quality those customers need."
According to the International Food Information Council Foundation’s 2007 Food and Health Survey, 72% of Americans indicated they are concerned about both the amount and types of fats they consumed compared with 66% the year before. The 2007 survey revealed 75% were trying to decrease their consumption of trans fat, compared with 54% the year before, and 70% were trying to decrease their consumption of saturated fats, up 13% from the previous year. Awareness of trans fat was 87% in 2007, up from 81% in 2006. Awareness of saturated fat was 88%, down from 91%.
Consumer surveys carried out by Loders Croklaan, Channahon, Ill., during the past four years also show an increasing awareness of trans fats, said Gerald P. McNeill, Ph.D., vicepresident of research and development.
"Our first survey showed strong consumer awareness of saturated fat, not surprisingly, with trans fat following close behind," Mr. McNeill said. "By the fourth survey, trans fat awareness had increased significantly and had exceeded the awareness level of saturated fat."
Grain-based foods continue to lead the trans-fat-free trend. There were 342 savory/salty snacks with low-, no- or reduced-trans-fat claims launched as new products in the United States in 2007, according to the Mintel Global New Products Database. Other grainbased food introductions with transfat claims included sweet biscuits/ cookies at 133; snack/cereal/energy bars at 114; bread and bread products at 95; cakes, pastries and sweet goods at 90; baking ingredients and mixes at 79; and cold cereal at 58.
Customer requests to keep saturated fats in check, or even reduce them, when creating trans-fat-free products have ramped up in the past six months, said Lynne Morehart, technical service manager, Cargill, Minneapolis. Canadian regulations may have had an influence, added Scott Erickson, marketing manager, Cargill. For a product to be listed as trans-fat free in Canada, it must contain 0.2 grams or less of trans fat and 2 grams or less of saturated and trans fats combined per serving. For a product to be listed as trans-fat free under Food and Drug Administration regulations, it must contain 0.5 grams or less per serving.
The American Heart Association recommends consumers keep their daily trans fat intake under 1% of their overall energy intake and their daily saturated fat consumption under 7%.
Reducing both trans and saturated fats in different categories takes time for each application, Ms. Morehart said. For example, within the donut category, some are eaten fresh, others are frozen and reconstituted at store level, and some donuts need a fourweek shelf life. The longer the shelf life, the more time fat is able to migrate in different ways.
"Within the different categories, solutions are very difficult to address," Ms. Morehart said. "One solution does not fit all."
Certain applications are easier than others, said Tom Tiffany, senior technical sales manager, ADM Food Oils, Decatur, Ill. "In most cases, switching to alternatives is not a slam dunk. Something is sacrificed — be it price, flavor, availability, shelf life or fry life.
"In a majority of applications where solid fat is needed for various functional considerations, the saturated fat content is equal to or increased compared with the partially hydrogenated vegetable oil that is being replaced. Saturates help provide some of the functionality that is needed for certain food applications."
Aarhus Karlshamn USA, Newark, N.J., boasts several healthy traits in the trans-fat-free shortenings it offers under its EsSence brand, said Jeffrey B. Fine, director of new products and technology.
"EsSence brand shortenings can be as little as 20% saturated fat," he said. "They have proven functional in a variety of bakery applications and are based on blends of canola, palm and palm kernel oils. These fats are unique in that they combine the three most sought-after nutritional attributes: no-trans, non-hydrogenated and relatively low in saturated fat."
Counting on canola
Many suppliers have turned to canola as a source for their oils and fats. Cargill recently expanded its line of high-oleic canola products to include Clear Valley all-purpose shortening, donut shortening and icing shortening. Fully hydrogenated cottonseed oil is used in these products, said Mr. Erickson.
The Clear Valley shortenings have 0 grams of trans fat and are about 22% to 24% saturated fat, Ms. Morehart noted.
In March 2007, the Pennsylvania State University Center for Food Innovation, University Park, Pa., conducted a sensory evaluation study that found no significant differences in appearance, taste, texture, overall liking, color and sweetness between donut samples fried in Clear Valley donut shortening and donut samples fried in all-purpose shortening containing trans fat.
"Furthermore, a majority of the panelists indicated an overall preference for donuts made with Clear Valley trans-fat-free donut shortening," said Peter L. Bordi, Ph.D., director of the Center for Food Innovation.
Dow AgroSciences, L.L.C., Indianapolis, offers omega-9 canola and sunflower oils and plans to expand its research and development site for canola in Saskatoon, Sask.
"This expansion further demonstrates our commitment to the Dow AgroSciences’ healthy oils platform and to canola growers in Canada and the U.S.," said Daniel Kittle, Ph.D., global vice-president of R.&D., Dow AgroSciences.
Three cheers for palm
While palm oil supporters point out the potential drop-in solution in grain-based foods, they also hope to improve its image.
"Palm oil is cost-neutral to soybean oil over the long term," Mr. McNeill said. "It is naturally solid, which is a key functional requirement for many grain-based foods, and it is naturally stable, resulting in a long shelf life in products. These three characteristics of palm oil have provided a solution to every application requiring trans fat elimination."
Loders Croklaan’s SansTrans line offers more than 30 products for grainbased food applications. These products are non-hydrogenated and do not contain trans fat. Palm oil contains about 50% saturated fat.
"Our current thinking about the adverse effects of saturated fat on human nutrition comes from research conducted in the 1960s and 1970s," Mr. McNeill said. "In the past 30 years, new and better research has been published giving us a much clearer picture. This data consistently shows that saturated fats are not as bad as was once thought.
"A growing consensus of scientists recognizes that saturated fat is not ‘artery clogging’ after all, and that it has little or no effect on risk of heart disease — it neither increases nor decreases it."
Loders Croklaan also developed reduced-saturated-fat products by blending vegetable oils with special palm oil fractions, Mr. McNeill said.
"Our recently launched product, SansTrans RS39 has 30% less saturates than palm oil but has the same performance and stability as regular palm oil," he said.
No need for partial
The soybean industry has concentrated on reducing trans and saturated fats by producing low-linolenic soybean oil. This year’s supply should exceed 800 million lbs, said Richard Galloway, a staff consultant for Qualisoy, the St. Louis-based collaborative effort among the soybean industry to help market the development and availability of healthier soybeans and soybean oil.
For many applications, the low-linolenic level of the soybeans (about 3%) eliminates the need for partial hydrogenation, the process that generates trans fats, when creating soybean oil.
"Reducing the linolenic content of the soybean from 8% to below 3% greatly improves the flavor stability of food products using this oil as an ingredient," Mr. Galloway said. "In practice, this trait has even proven to increase oxidative stability in highheat applications."
Food companies that have promoted their use of low-linolenic soy include The Kellogg Co. and Yum! Brand’s KFC unit. Ventura Foods also works with soybean oil.
"We are looking at alternative oils that are not only stable but are also naturally low in saturates," Mr. Stynes said. "One exciting, long-term project involves a hybrid soybean with added saturates to create a high-stearic oil.
"While it might seem odd to add saturates to soybean by using highstearic oil, in the future, we can reduce palm oil in formulations and, therefore, reduce saturates, offering another more healthy alternative oil to our customers. We’re also looking at some non-fat-based natural additives that provide structure without added saturates."
Fats and oils suppliers have made progress in offering products that may be used in the creation of healthier grain-based foods — those with both reduced trans and saturated fats. But patience is still needed.
"The edible oil industry is stepping up to the challenge of developing low-trans blends that will meet the functional demands from the food industry," said Mr. Tiffany of ADM. "Partially hydrogenated vegetable oils have been used in the U.S. for the past 35 to 40 years. In a matter of three to five years, we are trying to fit lowtrans alternatives into applications that have used partially hydrogenated vegetable oils for all these years."