Blends are a great way to achieve desirable performance in multiple areas, like a PHO-free shortening that’s also lower in saturates.

When moving away from partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), good routes to success are offered by the many application-specific shortenings now appearing on the market. In an exclusive Baking & Snack Q&A session, Brian Armstrong, senior director of innovation and R&D at Bunge, describes why this is.


Baking & Snack: How much does the choice of base oil(s) drive the functionality of shortenings? How does this differ by end use application?

Brian Armstrong: There are valuable claims and performance attributes that are inherent to certain base oils — smoke point, melting point and firmness, for example — that we rely and build upon in the development of our shortenings. In our NH (non-hydrogenated) line, we rely on the inherently high melting point of palm oil in a shortening that allows complete elimination of “hydrogenation” from a label. Or for a customer seeking to reduce saturates while eliminating PHOs from a formulation, our UltraBlends all-purpose shortening uses a combination of canola and palm to achieve a significant reduction in saturates — up to 60% fewer saturated fats than a palm-exclusive shortening.


Base oils are also selected for preferred performance in specific applications. For instance, we use soybean oil as a base for one of our UltraBlends specialty shortenings, which we developed specifically for very cold pie dough. Here, we rely on the inherent characteristics of the base oil, then apply our unique enzymatic process to deliver a domestically sourced, trans-fat-free solution without partial hydrogenation. The benefit of application-specific shortenings is that they can be more finely optimized to achieve the baker’s goals in a given formulation.


Why are so many of the “new generation” of bakery shortenings created by blending different base oils? How does this benefit the baker? Or snack food manufacturer?

Blends are a great way to achieve desirable performance in multiple areas, like a PHO-free shortening that’s also lower in saturates.


At Bunge, we’ve created custom blends that pull from the benefits of multiple raw materials to create a more functional and stable shortening. An example of this is our PhytoBake Specialty shortening in which we blend canola, palm and soy along with phytosterol esters to deliver up to 46% reduction in saturated fats and trans fats. By incorporating phytosterols that confer structure to the shortening, PhytoBake shortening supports the sensory attribute of the finished application with a lower level of saturated fat than traditional shortenings. This can help a baker or snack maker better achieve nutrition claims while retaining the indulgent experience people expect from baked goods — both on the menu and at shelf.


What should customers do right now to replace PHO-based shortenings? How close is your company to “drop in” solutions? What has been the experience of bakers making this change using your fats and oils?


Bunge has one of the widest range of PHO-free shortenings in the industry, and while we do offer multi-purpose shortenings, we’ve really helped bakery brands grow their product lines through our application-specific solutions. With PHO-free shortenings for everything from cakes and icings to pie crusts, cookies, donuts, breads and other baked goods, we’re able to achieve product development objectives with tailored ingredient solutions.


For customers reformulating to eliminate PHOs, we distinguish ourselves with excellent technical support. We can customize the shortening we recommend based on texture, shelf life or other requirements and help our customers confidently troubleshoot application challenges and embrace new opportunities. Additionally, we’ve invested heavily in our development efforts, our process capabilities and supply chain efficiencies to meet our customers’ needs so they can grow their PHO-free offerings with confidence.