Across the wide array of baked goods, fat provides multiple functionalities. There’s the obvious one — taste. But it also provides structure and mouthfeel.

“Fat systems play a vital role in determining the textural, nutritional and organoleptic characteristics of food products,” said Chandra Ankolekar, PhD, technical manager, bakery, dressings and oils, Kemin Food Technologies. “Each category has macro needs; products within the category demand something slightly different from the fat system in use.”

These specific needs can require a tailored fat system rather than an all-purpose one. With a good supplier relationship, bakers can communicate their needs and find a solution that will deliver.

“A cookie manufacturer may have a specification for a particular bite, a pie manufacturer for a particular crumb or a pastry maker for a specific structure and color,” said Frank Flider, oils consultant, United Soybean Board. “The shortening or fat supplier can take these specifications and targets and, working with the baker, design a fat solution to meet those specific needs.”

He pointed out that today’s bakers can describe their product’s analytical, physical and chemical properties, which allows suppliers to design fat solutions that can hit these targets. With these measurable properties guiding the way, new product development is getting more targeted to create more effective fat systems. All of this is guided by the finished products’ needs.

“The customer’s finished product, market and process help to dictate the kind of fat or oil required,” said Rick Cummisford, director of quality control, Columbus Vegetable Oils. “It isn’t necessarily a simple drop-in ingredient as there may be subtle changes needed to get it just right for their process or product.

While all-purpose shortenings have their place and some bakers may find them well-suited to their product portfolio needs, a shortening designed for a specific application delivers optimum quality.

“A tailored fat and oil solution should be used when developing bakery products that will have superior appearances, textures and shelf-stability as well as improved manufacturing efficiencies,” said Andrea Weis, customer innovation application specialist, AAK USA, Inc. “They provide process and formulation optimization in a variety of ways to help the baker improve upon a current bakery product or solve process, nutritional, clean label and sensory challenges.”

Fats, oils and shortenings contribute to texture, structure and taste in different ways, so providing an ­application-specific ingredient helps deliver the most optimal texture, structure and taste.

“Customized fat systems allow formulators to produce products with improved quality and eating experience,” said Jayme Caruso, chief commercial officer, Epogee LLC. “By using fats with specific functions, manufacturers can tailor their products to very specific consumer demands and desires. This allows for a greater degree of differentiation in an already crowded market space.”

Mark Stavro, senior director of marketing, Bunge Loders Croklaan, offered this example to illustrate how a product-specific ingredient can elevate.

“While an all-purpose shortening can make a good traditional icing, Vream Elite for Icings is a specialized icing shortening necessary to create a more premium, highly aerated and stable icing that holds up superbly over shelf life,” he said.

Bakers today have a bounty of fats and oils to mix and match to create a custom option. High-oleic oils, interesterified oils and the wealth of sources can zero-in on specific functionalities bakers are looking for. With the technology and sources available today, bakers can take advantage.

“There is no reason to settle for less than optimum solutions,” Mr. Flider said. “The only reason to use an all-purpose shortening over a tailored fat system is when it’s the best available solution for your product. However, all-purpose should never be one where you have to ‘settle’ but represents the best available solution for your particular needs. Only then should an all-purpose solution be chosen over a tailored solution.”

This article is an excerpt from the September 2020 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on fats and oils, click here.