When Aliess Bedford graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Iowa, she didn’t know that she would end up using it to work in the food industry.

“Upon graduation, I stumbled upon a number of food companies hiring,” Ms. Bedford said. “I did not know anyone working in the food industry but thought the opportunity sounded exciting. I learned on the job; worked with great mentors; engaged with different types of customers across bakery, confectionary and foodservice, and took numerous courses to supplement the food and ingredients exposure I did not have.”

After a short period of time, Ms. Bedford said she knew that the food industry was the right fit and pursued her master’s degree in food science at Kansas State University.

“Before I knew it, I was in fats & oils for 13 years and was living my passion in the food industry,” she said. “I have had many opportunities to work with production facilities internally and with customers, develop new products, formulate new applications, support troubleshooting, and everything in between.”

Ms. Bedford said she enjoys experimenting with new recipes at home and likes to bake with her daughters.

In her current role as R&D applications manager and food processor at Bunge Loders Croklaan, Ms. Bedford leads the development & applications team, which works with customers to modify and create specialty blends based on customers’ needs. The team also explores how fats and oils interact with other ingredients in applications.

“I love working with our team and customers and helping them find solutions,” she said.

What is a good indication that a formulation requires a specialty shortening rather than an all-purpose shortening?

If your finished product is not meeting your functional needs via texture, flavor, volumes, etc., then you may want to reconsider your shortening selection. If you are producing an indulgent or premium product, these typically require specialty shortenings to enhance the eating quality and respective attributes of the application.     

How can a specialty shortening improve a finished product?

Specialty shortenings make improvements that are very dependent on the finished product. For cake or icing products, having a specialty shortening means a balanced oil blend and a truly optimized emulsifier system. This provides the best emulsification so that aeration helps produce volume and fine cell structure in cakes and lighter, lower specific gravity icings. In donuts, specialty formulated shortenings can have tailored solid fat profiles that can decrease wicking or oil staining in packages, improve the way your glaze or icing adheres to your finished donut, and enhance fried flavor notes.   

When would an all-purpose shortening be the right choice?

All-purpose shortenings are the workhorses of the shortening category. These can be used when you are making several different applications onsite: cakes, icings, cookies, donuts, etc. These products provide good performance across a wide range of applications and reduce the number of products a facility must order and inventory. You can also take all-purpose shortenings and combine them with emulsifiers to add further improvements to mouthfeel, texture and shelf life in products. We offer several monoglycerides and diglycerides, as well as specialty blends, that are easy to add and cream at the bowl. This way you can adjust the levels to best fit your wide product mix.

How might a formulation need to be tweaked to accommodate a specialty shortening?

This really depends on your starting point. Application formulations vary more and more depending on the target market. In general, there is not one adjustment that fits all. If a formulation changes from liquid oil or all-purpose to specialty shortening, it can provide some challenges. One example, to adjust from using a liquid oil to a specialty shortening, you may need to adjust other liquids in formulation to still create a moist product. A traditional tortilla formulation using a liquid soybean or canola oil would use less water and more emulsifier. For tortillas, if you are adding in a specialty shortening, it will help with shelf life and qualities such as rollability, stretchability and machinability. You also should keep in mind that changing to specialty shortening will enhance your finished product texture, flavor, structure and other properties. You will have to re-set your quality measurements to realign.   

How does shortening function differently in pie crust vs. pizza crust, and why might a specialty shortening meet those needs?

Specialty shortening for pie crust will have a varying range of textures. The shortening provides the tenderness and can add to flakiness for pie crust, but the yeast-raising is what provides texture for pizza crust. For specialty pie shortenings, the temperature of storage and use for the customer as well as mixer types will be critical to make the best selection. The shortening cuts or breaks down the dough, leaving tiny lumps that don’t melt, creating a flaky and tender texture post bake. Pizza crusts do not typically require specialty shortenings due to the tougher texture of the yeast-raised doughs. Most — there is always an exception — pizza crusts use low levels of liquid oils like soybean and canola oil. The liquid oil helps provide lubricity during the dough production. If you wanted to make an extra flaky crust, you could add in some flaked shortening toward the end of production.