Once a shortening is fulfilling its functional roles in a formulation, bakers may look to improve the Nutrition Facts Label and take first aim at the fat.

“One thing we’re clearly seeing now is a drive toward healthier options,” said John Satumba, Ph.D., North America R.&D. director, global edible oil solutions, Cargill. “For some this means reducing overall saturated fat content while maintaining the same functionality that our customers have become used to.”

To do that, Cargill recently introduced a low saturated fat canola. While a typical canola sits at about 7% saturated fat, this new oil contains about 4.5%.

“Low-saturate canola gives us an additional tool in our portfolio to customize and design new fat systems with healthier fat profiles,” Dr. Satumba said. “Our product developers also continue to focus on improving the performance of bakery fats. In this vein we are excited to introduce a new line of high-functionality bakery products under the PalmAgility brand to complement an already diverse portfolio available to our customers. Our team is ready to collaborate with customers in co-creating value-added solutions for their bakery needs.”

Bunge’s PhytoBake shortening not only delivers improved functionality, but it also replaces saturated fat with phytosterols. This results in a reduction of saturated fat up to 50%.

Stratas Foods’ developed Superb Select 1020 Shortening to not only substantially reduce saturated fats but also eliminate hydrogenated fats. The shortening is made from a non-p.h.o. soybean oil and lowers saturated fats by more than 40% while still maintaining the structure needed for baking. It also satisfies another need bakers have: cleaning up the label.

AAK’s Essence line of shortenings helps bakers lower their products’ saturated fat content. Made from a blend of palm-based hardstocks and liquid oil, these specialty shortenings are non-hydrogenated and lower in saturated fat compared with all-purpose shortenings.

“With a hardstock, you can design a shortening blend to give the functionality and structure needed in bakery applications while reducing total saturated fat,” said James Jones, Ph.D., vice-president, customer innovation, AAK USA. “Depending on our customers’ processing parameters, nutritional requirements and desired finished product attributes, we can modify the hardstock to liquid oil ratio to produce the ideal Essence shortening for them.”

Some niche but growing segments of U.S. consumers also are concerned with issues that are a bit more accessory, but for these people, they are very important. Clean ingredient lists and sustainably sourced ingredients are both growing concerns among today’s shoppers.

For some bakers, having a clean label is the next challenge they face. With shortening, clean label concerns seemed to have fallen on the word hydrogenation. P.h.o.s were linked to trans fats, and fully hydrogenated oils, which offered similar functionality to p.h.o.s and none of the trans fats, seemed to get lumped in with p.h.o.s in consumers’ minds. That link appears to be weakening, however.

“Some companies don’t want the term hydrogenation on their label, so they focus on palm oil hard fat,” said Frank Flider, consultant, Qualisoy. “What we find in surveys, though, is that a consumer wanting a sweet good isn’t super concerned about hydrogenation. That’s less of a priority to them, and the connection between the word hydrogenation and trans fat is weakening.”

With hydrogenation becoming less of a concern, formulators are turning their attention to the antioxidants used to maintain the shortening’s, and finished product’s, shelf life. Formulators can lean on natural antioxidants instead of employing synthetic ones to make their ingredient lists more appealing to consumers.

“In some cases, antioxidants can be removed completely by formulating with high-oleic oil, whether it’s soy, canola or sunflower, while maintaining a moderate level of saturation,” said Tom Tiffany, senior technical sales manager, oils, ADM.

Some segments of shoppers also look for products made from sustainable ingredients, or those that are grown and harvested in a way that does minimal harm, if at all, to the land or the farmers who own and work those fields. Some segments of the American consumer population don’t want their purchases supporting harmful farming practices. If using palm or another tropical oil, bakers can still find sustainable sources to meet these shoppers’ desire to feel good about their shopping choices.

“More often than not, providing sustainable palm oil products is relatively simple as it does not alter the properties of the finished shortening, just the supply chain and documentation,” said Rick Cummisford, director of quality, Columbus Vegetable Oils.

Bakers looking for a sustainable palm source can rely on organizations like the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, which hold companies accountable for implementing systems and practices that enable palm oil production to be a sustainable process.

These steps can help bakers achieve a cleaner label and maintain expected product characteristics.

This article is an excerpt from the November 2018 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on shortening, click here.