Bakers are moving on from straight partially hydrogenated oil (pho) replacement to other challenges like improved functionality, ease-of-use, nutrition and cleaner labels, but each product and its priorities are different. To meet these varying degrees of challenges, shortening suppliers are creating customized solutions for bakers’ specific needs.

“One size does not fit all,” said Rudy Nava, customer innovation applications specialist, AAK. “There are many specialized shortening needs coming from bakeries today. They need their products to deliver consistent high quality with texture, flavor and color attributes that set them apart from the competition.”

Shortenings must perform a lot of different functions across the spectrum of applications they’re found in. Without the stability of phos to fall back on, shortening suppliers have widened their offerings in the hope of covering that entire spectrum.

“More shortenings have been developed to fit more specific needs, from the sharp melt point profile needed for frying pastries to the cold temperature hardness to provide the perfect crust for pies,” said Rick Cummisford, director of quality, Columbus Vegetable Oils.

In fact, 15 years ago, he said, Columbus Vegetable Oils had 12 shortenings. Today, the company manufactures more than 80.

“Function in the finished product and customer process is only one part of the whole equation,” he said. “Other factors include cost, stability, label-friendliness as well as softer aspects such as organic and non-G.M.O. sourcing, sustainable sourcing or natural.”

Related ReadingBlending hard stocks and oils or using enzymatic interesterification can help ingredient suppliers find the shortening for a baker’s product. These methods address gaps that exist if a baker were to use a single source of fat or oil for his or her shortening, explained Tom Tiffany, senior technical sales manager, oils, ADM.

“Palm oil alone at times can form a very firm shortening, which can create difficulties in mixing,” he said. “By blending palm oil with soybean oil, the solid fat content and crystallization tendency of the shortening improves to allow for more uniform mixing.”

The company has also addressed the same issue with a line of soybean oil-based interesterified shortenings that are also less firm than palm-based options.

When working on customizing a shortening solution, it’s important the ingredient supplier have a thorough understanding of how the elements of fat can be blended or interesterified to find the right ratio. It’s also important to understand the baker’s finished product goals.

“Many companies use the addition of vegetable hard fat or saturated fat to provide the structure needed to replace phos in shortening,” said Steven Council, customer innovation manager, AAK USA. “A technique employed more recently to produce shortenings from vegetable oils is to blend fully hydrogenated oils with unsaturated soft oils and then interesterify them.” This process allows formulators to use the benefits of the hard-fat structure of fully hydrogenated oils with the pliability of the softer oils in one shortening.

The array of shortening solutions for bakers today is vast, from palm- and soy-based to new high-performance options. This diversity in base oils as well advancements in blending and interesterification have enabled ingredient suppliers to deliver custom, application-specific shortening solutions to bakers. 

“The wide variety of pho alternatives shows that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution but that a unique solution can be found for every application,” said Mark Stavro, senior director of marketing, Bunge Loders Croklaan.

With the expertise of ingredient suppliers and the right base oils and hard stocks, bakers can take advantage of improved shortening ingredients.