The levels keep rising, from 55% to now more than 75%. But over the past two decades, not only has the proportion of high-oleic acid oils jumped, but sources have expanded, too, thanks to research and development involving sunflower, canola and soybeans.

Higher oleic acid levels mean more stability and functionality when the oils are used in grain-based foods applications. Meanwhile, R.&D. efforts have taken out trans fat and reduced saturated fat, which enhances the oils’ nutritional profiles.

Oleic acid innovation picked up steam in 1995 when the National Sunflower Association sought to change the fatty acid structure of sunflowerseed to meet future needs of the food industry. The resulting NuSun oil has higher oleic levels (55% to 75%) than traditional sunflower oil.

During the past decade, oleic acid levels rose in canola oil. Dow AgroSciences, L.L.C., Indianapolis, now offers omega-9 fatty acid oils from sunflower and canola. The primary omega-9 fatty acid is oleic acid. Cargill, Minneapolis, offers the Clear Valley brand of canola oil and sunflower oil with high oleic acid levels.

Soybeans join in

This decade, soybean oil is joining the high-oleic acid movement. High-oleic soybean oil made from Plenish high-oleic soybeans is entering the market. The oil has an oleic content of more than 75% along with 0 grams of trans fat and 20% less saturated fat than conventional soybean oil.

Will these oils be used in commerical food applications? More than 100 testing agreements are in place with various food and beverage companies and industrial users, said Russ Sanders, director of the DuPont Plenish venture.

“There is very, very high interest,” he said.

DuPont Pioneer offers Plenish, which already has received regulatory approval in the United States and several international markets, including China, said Dave Tegeder, senior marketing manager for the DuPont Plenish venture. Pioneer has filed for approval from the European Union, but Plenish has yet to be approved there.

Interest in Plenish covers a gamut of the food industry, both from food service companies and food manufacturers for the retail market, Mr. Tegeder said. Plenish initially may see more use in food service.

“Maybe the quicker ‘in’ is obviously with the frying applications,” he said.

Stratas Foods, Memphis, Tenn., already offers Frymax Soy Supreme, a high-oleic oil, for use in the food service industry.

The grain-based foods industry may find use for the high-oleic oils, too.

“In high-oleic oils, the amount of linolenic and linoleic fatty acids are reduced, resulting in a more stable oil, while the amount of saturates remain comparatively the same,” said Jackie Steffey, product development scientist for AarhusKarlshamn (AAK), which has a U.S. office in Louisville, Ky. “The high-oleic oils can be blended with other oils and shortenings in order to maintain functionality in the finished product. The use of these will improve overall stability, while maintaining zero trans fat and a reduction in saturated fat of the oil or shortening blend.

“These blends can be utilized in many grain-based foods, such as pizzas, muffins, pastas and tortillas. High-oleic oils also can be an alternative for partially hydrogenated products in frying applications due to the increased stability.”

Mr. Sanders said this year Plenish soybeans are being grown in Indiana, Ohio and Maryland. The growing area should expand into Illinois and Iowa within the next two years. The potential future market for high-oleic soybeans is 15 million to 20 million acres (of 77 million acres planted in the United States), he said.

Cargill in the 2013 growing season will contract with soybean farmers in the Sidney, Ohio, area, to grow Plenish soybeans that will be delivered to Cargill’s facility for processing.

Crushing should take place in October, said Lorin Debonte, assistant vice-president of research and development, specialty seeds and oils for Cargill.

Testing with customers should begin in 2014, he said. Cargill will want to see what flavor profile the oil provides and how the oil blends with other oils.

“The big thing is how can you combine (the oil) with other oils,” Mr. Debonte said.

With a saturated fat level of 10% to 12%, the Plenish oil compares with commodity soybean oil at 14% to 15% and canola oil at 6.5% to 7%, he said.

Plenish will add to Cargill’s oil portfolio.

“Our goal is really to deliver the widest possible range of solutions economically to our customers,” said Kyle Marinkovich, director of marketing, specialty seeds and oils for Cargill. “It just gives us a lot of options.”

Archer Daniels Midland Co., Decatur, Ill., in the 2013 growing season will contract with soybean growers in the Frankfort, Ind., area to grow Plenish high-oleic soybeans.

“ADM is enthusiastic about the introduction of high-oleic soybean oil,” said Michelle Peitz, technical sales representative for ADM Oils, Decatur. “A growing program was started in 2012 and will continue in 2013 in east central Indiana for ADM.

“This provides the food industry the opportunity to evaluate this oil in a wide spectrum of food applications and start approval processes so everyone is ready to take advantage of high-oleic soybean oil attributes when production ramps up in upcoming years.”

Tom Tiffany, senior technical manager for ADM Oils in Decatur, said different sectors of the food industry are evaluating high-oleic soybean oil.

“It can be used as-is, in blends with other oils, and turned into a shortening by enzymatic interesterification or blending with various hard stocks,” he said. “Because of the various means to modify the functionality of high-oleic soybean oil, it can be used in frying, baking, spray oil, margarine, spreads and a host of other applications.”

Bunge also is involved with Plenish. In October 2012, it was announced Pioneer will contract with soybean farmers in the Delphos, Ohio, area to grow Plenish high-oleic soybeans in the 2013 growing season that will be delivered to Bunge’s facility for processing or to a participating elevator. A similar contract was in place for the 2012 growing season.

“Although our numerous customers are evaluating high-oleic soybean oil, we are still awaiting global approval,” said Dilip Nakhasi, director of innovation for Bunge.

Small amounts of the soybeans are being crushed, and small amounts of the oil are being tested, Mr. Nakhasi said.

“We’ve done tests in house, and it’s working very well,” he said.

Last year Bunge opened a culinary center in Bradley, Ill. The center includes an industrial kitchen, a corporate dining room and video capabilities. Bunge customers may take Bunge’s ingredients, including fats and oils, and test how the ingredients work with the customers’ existing products or how the ingredients may be used to develop new recipes.

Perdue AgriBusiness also has joined the Plenish growing program this year. The company will contract with soybean farmers in the Shiloh and Sudlersville, Md., areas to grow Plenish soybeans.

Another high-oleic soybean, Vistive Gold, soon may be available from St. Louis-based Monsanto. The U.S. Department of Agriculture in December 2011 deregulated the biotech trait, MON 87705, in Vistive Gold soybeans, which have 0 grams of trans fat, 60% less saturated fat than conventional soybean oil and have a fatty-acid profile of at least 75% oleic acid.

The Vistive Gold oil will have an advantage in its saturated fat content of only about 7%, Mr. Debonte of Cargill said.

“It’s now in the range where canola has been working for the past 40 years,” he said.

Growth in canola

Cargill’s Clear Valley range includes canola oil with oleic acid levels of 65% and 80% as well as high-oleic sunflower oil and an omega-3 fatty acid oil that is a blend of canola and flax, a source of alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid.

Cargill announced two investments in canola in 2012. The company plans to construct a world scale canola refinery at its Clavet, Sask., canola processing facility that should be completed in time for the 2014-15 canola harvest. Construction of a canola processing facility near Camrose, Alta., also should be completed in time for the 2014-15 harvest.

Mr. Marinkovich pointed out Cargill is a fully integrated canola oil supplier from seed to oil.

“We own it,” he said. “We grow it. We have a dedicated supply chain. That allows us to assure supply.”

Dow AgroSciences already has integrated its omega-9 fatty acid oils into the grain-based foods industry. Bakery shortenings may use omega-9 fatty acid oils in combination with the right functional fats, said Asim Syed, director, global R.&D. The possible levels of reduction in saturated fat through the use of omega-9 fatty acid oils depend on the application.

In the next two years Dow AgroSciences plans to launch an omega-9 fatty acid sunflower oil that has 0 grams of saturated fat, Mr. Syed said. It may be used in shortening formulations.

“A select group of food manufacturers have received samples in small amounts,” he said. “They are doing their own internal testing.”

Palm oil innovation

Palm oil already is a functional oil used in grain-based foods, and it’s also trans fat-free. Palm oil’s saturated fat content may be higher than liquid oils, but recent innovations have taken place with shortenings.

SansTrans RS39 is a zero-trans fat, all-purpose shortening that has 30% less saturated fat than regular palm oil, said Gerald McNeill, Ph.D., vice-president of R.&D. for Loders Croklaan, Channahon, Ill. A line extension introduced last year offers firmer texture than SansTrans RS39.

“Consisting of three products based on blends of palm oil with canola oil, SansTrans RS40, RS42 and RS45 provide successively firmer textures that better match the needs of a diverse range of baked goods that need an all-purpose shortening,” Dr. McNeill said. “All of the RS products contain less than 40% saturated fat, providing approximately 35% lower saturated fat content compared to their regular palm oil counterparts.”

He added saturated fat, according to recent studies, may be more neutral than harmful in relation to cholesterol and heart disease risk.

For example, a study in the August 2012 issue of Diabetologia suggested the reported dietary saturated fatty acid intake was not significantly associated with cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality in type 1 diabetic patients. A prospective cohort analysis was performed in 2,108 European type 1 diabetic patients aged 15 to 60 years who were free of cardiovascular disease at baseline.

“For decades scientists have warned that saturated fat raises risk of heart disease because it raises serum L.D.L., commonly called ‘bad cholesterol,’” Dr. McNeill said. “Nutritionists called for lower and lower intakes of saturated fat to reduce heart attack rates. But saturated fat also was found to raise H.D.L. cholesterol, also known as ‘good cholesterol,’ perhaps making saturated fat not as bad as once believed.”

Loders Croklaan invests in sustainable palm oil

In 2013 IOI Loders Croklaan Europe plans to increase its volume of certified sustainable palm oil to 30% of total sales. Parent company IOI Group in Malaysia primarily produces the oil. The IOI Group expects to have the last of its plantations certified by the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil by the end of 2013.

Sustainable palm oil will be available in the United States, too.

“IOI Loders Croklaan Americas has fully implemented its plans to offer its customers a full range of certified sustainable finished palm and palm kernel oil products in mass balance form, using oils that are fully segregated up to the Channahon (Ill.) and Rexdale (Ont.) refineries,” said Gerald McNeill, Ph.D., vice-president of R.&D. for Loders Croklaan, Channahon, Ill.

The R.S.P.O. was established in 2004 to promote the production and use of sustainable palm oil. It brings together more than 1,000 palm oil growers, oil processors, manufacturers, retailers, N.G.Os and palm oil investors.