Enzymatic interesterification separates the fatty acid components and reassembles them.

Recently, a new phrase entered the language of fats and oils: enzymatic interesterification. Although the name takes up a lot of syllables, the process is a lot like making a music mix tape. It separates the fatty acid components from different triglycerides, mixes them up and reassembles them.

“In a blend of oils, each oil molecule retains its own characteristics, dramatically limiting the functional range of a blend,” said Richard Galloway, consultant, Qualisoy. “In enzymatic interesterification (EIE), optimization occurs at the molecular level, significantly expanding its functional range and enabling it to more closely approach partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) in functionality, stability and so forth.”

When applied to soybean oil, EIE results in a functional shortening that does not contribute trans fats.

“The soybean industry has invested millions in perfecting the EIE process and can offer the baker or snack food manufacturer the closest thing to the PHO shortenings to which he or she has been accustomed,” Mr. Galloway said.

A donut frying test done by Qualisoy with EIE high-oleic soybean oil produced donuts similar in texture, interior grain, spread and height, and donut hole star shape and size to those fried with PHO shortening. Additional testing focuses on cakes, cookies and icings.

Interesterification can also be done chemically, but “the benefit to enzymatic is that the process typically yields shortenings of higher quality,” said Roger Daniels, vice-president, research and innovation, Stratas Foods LLC. They have a wider array of fatty acid combinations (triglycerides) that move these shortenings closer to the functionality of PHOs.