Fries phos
New facilities, oil innovations assist in formulating with pho alternatives.

KANSAS CITY — The June 18 deadline for removing partially hydrogenated oils approaches rapidly, but research on alternative oils should continue past that date. Recent innovation center openings and ingredient launches should assist in the efforts.

The Food and Drug Administration in a June 2015 issue of the Federal Register announced its determination there is no longer a consensus among qualified experts that partially hydrogenated oils, the primary dietary source of industrially produced trans fats, are generally recognized as fats (GRAS) for use in human food. Companies have until June 18 of this year to remove phos.

AAK USA Inc., Edison, N.J., has multiple customer innovation centers to assist its customers in pho-free formulating. A center that opened in Edison in March 2017 features a bakery lab as well as a chocolate and confectionery lab. Another AAK center opened in Louisville, Ky., in December 2017. It has a pilot plant for small batches of shortenings and margarines, a commercial bakery lab, and an analytical lab with bench top oil processing unit operations.

“The pilot plant in Louisville will allow AAK to innovate custom-made test batches of shortenings, including cubed and flaked shortenings, and margarines for new product development with our customers,” said Chris Bohm, custom innovation manager for the bakery segment. “This will shorten our customers’ product development cycle.”

In the second half of 2018, AAK plans to open a center in Richmond, Calif., that will feature a plant-based dairy lab, a bakery lab and a frying lab.

Dawn Foods, Jackson, Mich., in 2017 opened an innovation center in Jackson.

“The Dawn Innovation Studio is a place to inspire creativity, encourage innovation and strengthen collaboration,” said Ben Brue, director of dry ingredients at Dawn Foods.

The company also has relaunched a buttercreme-style icing portfolio.

Bunge North America, St. Louis, offers an array of pho alternatives, including shortening with up to 50% less saturated fat than traditional palm oil shortenings, PhytoBake shortening that works especially well with tortillas, and shortening made with high-oleic soybean oil.

Work also continues with algae butter.

“We see the benefit of application-specific shortenings because they can be optimized to achieve a specific goal in a given formulation,” said Mark Stavro, senior director of marketing at Bunge. “For example, we are currently testing algae butter, which delivers great texture and performance for icings without hydrogenation and has up to 40% less saturated fat than palm oil shortenings. We also have a shortening that was developed specifically for very cold pie dough that uses our unique enzymatic process to deliver a non-pho solution that is free of trans fats.”

Cargill, Minneapolis, in December launched a high-oleic canola oil that contains 4.5% or less saturated fat while maintaining high fry and shelf life performance, freshness and taste, according to the company.

“This was on the heels of our October 2016 introduction of the Regal line of high performance bakery shortenings,” said John Satumba, Ph. D., food ingredients and analytical chemistry director, global edible oil solutions R.&D. “Both our low-sat canola oil and Regal shortenings are functional alternatives to phos.”

Stratas Foods, Memphis, Tenn., now offers Apex, a non-partially hydrogenated interesterified high-oleic soybean shortening. Besides a clean flavor, it offers long fry and shelf life.

“Apex satisfies the need for a true drop-in functionality from distribution, to storage to performance in the factory or kitchen,” said Roger Daniels, vice-president of research and development and innovation at Stratas Foods.

Qualisoy, an independent third-party collaboration that promotes the development of and helps build the market for enhanced soybean oils, estimates 300 million lbs of high-oleic soybean oil will be available this year. The goal is to reach 9,300 million lbs by 2027. A 12-month shortening study evaluated white cake, sugar cookies and icing. Enzymatically interesterified high-oleic soybean shortening produced results most similar to pho shortening, said Frank Flider, a consultant for Qualisoy.

High-oleic sunflower oil, corn oil and canola oil all may work as alternatives for phos, said Jennifer Tesch, chief marketing officer for Healthy Food Ingredients, Fargo, N.D. Besides non-pho, food companies also may seek attributes such as Non-GMO Project verified, organic and expeller pressed (meaning mechanically processed without the use of chemicals), she said.

“We’ve specifically seen growth in non-GMO Project verified oils,” Ms. Tesch said. “Most of our oils are verified, including canola, corn and sunflower oils.”

Selecting pho alternatives may depend on the application.

“To replace phos in frying or spray applications, formulators can use naturally stable oils such as cottonseed oil, sunflower oil and corn oil,” said Tom Tiffany, director of food oils R.&D. at Archer Daniels Midland Co., Chicago. “High-oleic soybean oil and high-oleic canola oil also work very well in these applications.

“If a solids profile is needed for applications such as ready-to-use frosting, donut frying and bakery applications, options include palm oil, palm oil blends with liquid oils or interesterified soybean oil-based options, and in certain applications, a blend of liquid oils with fully hydrogenated oils will provide the needed functionality.”

Phos may be more difficult to replace in some applications.

“We have several applications that are applicable for customers who come to AAK seeking additional formulation assistance for improved first generation non-pho solutions,” said Jackie Steffey, customer innovation manager for AAK. “One of these applications is icings and frostings, where our customer requests are resulting in a lot of project work.”

Whipped toppings also may require additional formulation expertise, said Ramesh Reddy, Ph.D., customer innovation manager for AAK.

“This is because of the unique functionality that partially hydrogenated fats can deliver to whipped toppings,” he said. “Phos retain air well and provide an excellent creamy mouthfeel.”