Investing in no trans fat options

by Jeff Gelski
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Formulators wanting to create products free of trans fat may be glad to hear supply of canola oil is on the upswing. They also may want to consider a sustainable palm oil option. Market demand apparently exists for such trans-fat-free products. According to the 2009 International Food Information Council Foundation’s Food & Health Survey, 90% of Americans have heard of trans fat and 64% are trying to consume less of it.

Two events this summer show how the Canadian canola industry is boosting supply of its trans-fat-free oil. The industry has a goal of reaching 15 million tonnes of demand and production by 2015, which would mark a 65% increase from 2007.

"What we’re seeing in the last two years is the infrastructure being put in place to actually supply that demand," said Robert Hunter, vice-president of communications for CanolaInfo, Winnipeg, Man.

Viterra Inc. celebrated the grand opening of its canola crush operation in Ste. Agathe, Man., on July 28. The company acquired the assets of Associated Proteins LP (APLP) in June. The facility has a crush capacity of 1,000 tonnes per day. It is a scalable operation with expansion opportunities, according to APLP.

Also, Bio-Extraction Inc., Toronto, has selected Minot, N.D., as the site for an 80,000-tonne canola protein processing facility that may start production in 2011.

Canola oil is ideal for removing trans fat in frying applications in the food service sector, Mr. Hunter said.

"In the last two or three years we’ve really seen a big increase in demand for the product, mostly driven by the food service sector," Mr. Hunter said.

Among primary grocery shoppers, 97% who used cooking oil within the past six months are aware of canola oil, according to a December 2008 survey performed by Cogent Research for CanolaInfo. When purchasing cooking oil, 90% of consumers consider trans fat-free as an important driver, according to the survey.

Since it is more of a liquid oil, canola oil may need to be blended with other oils in baked foods.

No "silver bullet" exists to rid products of trans fat, said Andrew Bunger, director of sales for Fuji Vegetable Oil, White Plains, N.Y. He will give a presentation called "The evolution of no trans fats in the marketplace" Oct. 5 at a global oil and fats forum in New Orleans.

Liquid oils may not work in applications that need higher melting points, he said. In such instances, the industry continues to use blends of liquid oil with palm oil, he said.

"It’s been interesting to watch the industry do back flips to put a good product out there," Mr. Bunger said, "We’re just getting better at doing back flips."

Industry has yet to catch on in a significant way to the use of sustainable palm oil. The Roundtable on

Sustainable Palm Oil (R.S.P.O.) was formed in 2004 with the goal of promoting the growth and use of sustainable palm oil products through global standards.

For example, Minneapolis-based Cargill has adopted a "no burn" policy for land preparation, worked with the World Wildlife Fund and Fauna & Flora

International to protect forest and species in and around Cargill plantations, and is working toward having all company-owned plantations certified by the R.S.P.O.

However, only 1% of the sustainable palm oil on the market had been bought, according to figures released in May by the World Wildlife Fund, which helped to set up the R.S.P.O. Of the 1.3 million tons produced, less than 15,000 tons had been sold, said David McLaughlin, the W.W.F.’s vice-president of agriculture. The W.W.F. planned to publish a scorecard that shows whether companies have supported sustainable palm oil.

While sellers want a value-added price for the R.S.P.O.-certified oil, buyers are not so quick to pay that price, Mr. Bunger said.

"Right now the market is trying to put a price on that," he said. "The two sides don’t see eye-to-eye on price right now."

IOI—Loders Croklaan Oils B.V., Wormerveer, The Netherlands, continues to be a leader in the palm oil business. The company is building a new production facility in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, that includes a new refinery and extra storage capacity. Production should start next spring.

The facility will offer a range of products that will include palm kernel oil and mixtures along with palm-based products. The new facility will be equipped to produce large volumes of enzymatically interesterified (E.I.) products.

"Innovations by IOI—Loders Croklaan have made it possible to produce E.I.-product at large scale and economic price levels, making this sustainable and environmental friendly production method accessible to the main market," the company said.

The new facility will be equipped to offer separately processed sustainable palm oil, meeting the R.S.P.O.-requirements of the segregation method.

Soy and trans fat-free baking

The Soyfoods Council, Urbandale, Iowa, has released a brochure called "Soy Solutions to Trans Fat-Free Baking" that focuses on research performed at Iowa State University in Ames. A study there compared five different soy-based shortening or oil substitutions in a variety of commercial baked foods, including yellow cake, muffins, icing, bread rolls and biscuits.

The study used instrumental, physical and sensory analysis and revealed the interesterified shortenings performed up to gold standards in the widest range of applications when replacing hydrogenated vegetable shortenings. Ultra Low Linolenic Soybean Oil worked well in products where oils typically are used, such as cakes and muffins, without formula modification.

"We tested the two new interesterified soy-based shortenings," said Lester Wilson, professor of food science at Iowa State University. "This research provides valuable information to food formulators about the performance and taste they can expect using these soy-based oils and shortenings in their own baked goods.

"We have every reason to believe the results we obtained are transferrable from the lab to commercial operations."

The brochure also lists soybean oils with reduced or no trans fats and their potential baking applications. The oils include standard soybean oil, low-linolenic soybean oil, expeller-pressed soybean oil and chemically interesterified soybean oil.

Spreading the word on partial hydrogenation

A majority of Americans are trying to consume less partially hydrogenated oils, and spread manufacturers Smart Balance and Unilever want to increase the percentage. Partial hydrogenation causes trans fat.

According to the 2009 International Food Information Council Foundation’s Food & Health Survey, 56% of Americans are trying to reduce consumption of partially hydrogenated oils, which compares with 64% trying to reduce consumption of trans fats.

A product’s label in some cases actually may say 0 grams of trans fat per serving even if it includes partially hydrogenated oil. If the trans fat is less than 0.5 grams per serving, the Food and Drug Administration mandates that the label must be rounded down to 0 grams of trans fat.

Smart Balance, Paramus, N.J., points that situation out in its "Zero isn’t zero" advertising campaign. The company urges consumers to look for partially hydrogenated oil on the ingredient list. Smart Balance does not use partially hydrogenated oil in its spreads.

Unilever, which has a U.S. office in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., in July announced its soft (tub) spreads portfolio in the United States will have no partially hydrogenated oils by the second quarter of 2010.

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