In the highly competitive fight for shelf space, manufacturers are always searching for ways to grab consumers’ attention. Oil options and their innumerable claims are an effective way to get a product noticed. Whether the claim states no trans fat, low in saturated fat, hydrogenated-free or made with (your oil of choice here), consumers are becoming more educated about today’s edible oil options.
"No longer are trans free and hydro free enough," said Ed Wilson, sales and marketing director for AarhusKarlshamn USA, Inc., Port Newark, N.J. "Newer products are demanding lower sats as a must."
Surveys show how consumers might relate to the choice of fats and oils in a grain-based product.
"Consumer Attitudes About Nutrition: Insights into Nutrition, Health and Soyfoods," the 14th annual national report sponsored by the United Soybean Board (U.S.B.), found a total of 89% of consumers recognized olive oil as a healthy oil, followed by canola oil at 76% and soybean oil at 70%. An independent research firm gathered information for the U.S.B. report in February and March through 1,000 random surveys. Flaxseed oil came in fourth at 69%, followed by sunflower and safflower oils both at 65%.
The survey also revealed consumer awareness of fat and health. In 2007, 42% of residents did not know whether saturated fats or trans fats were healthier, while 42% believed saturated fats were healthier, and 16% believed trans fats were healthier. The figures compare with 2006, when 52% did not know which fat was healthier, 26% believed saturated fats were healthier, and 22% believed trans fats were healthier.
The American Heart Association (A.H.A.) released its own survey. It revealed 92% of consumers were aware of trans fat in 2007, up from 84% in 2006, but only 21% could name three food sources of trans fat. Also, 93% of consumers were aware of saturated fat, but only 30% could name three food sources of saturated fat.
Awareness of the link between fats identified as unhealthy by the A.H.A. increased to 73% in 2007 for trans fat, up from 63% in 2006. The percentage for saturated fat rose to 77% from 73%.
"We’re encouraged to see consumer awareness of saturated fat and trans fat is higher than ever, and more people understand the link between these fats and increased heart disease risk," said Robert H. Eckel, M.D., past president of the A.H.A. and chairman of its trans-fat task force.
Studies have shown trans fat raises L.D.L. (bad cholesterol) and decreases H.D.L. (good cholesterol). Saturated fat raises both types of cholesterol.
No trans, low in sats
Promoters of canola oil point out it has no trans fat and is about 7% saturated fat, a lower percentage than any common culinary oil, according to CanolaInfo, Winnipeg, Man., an information source for consumers, health professionals, chefs, media and educators. CanolaInfo this year launched two logos: "We use Canola Oil" for food service, and "Made with Canola Oil" for food manufacturers.
"We are just in the infancy of trying to get entities to use these logos," said Angela Dansby, communications manager, CanolaInfo. "We have quite a list of folks to target."
To qualify for the "Made with Canola Oil" logo, a product must meet these criteria: The oil used in the product must be 100% canola oil and not a blend; the product must have 1 gram or less per serving of saturated fat in the U.S. and 2 grams or less of saturated and trans fat combined per serving in Canada; and the product must contain less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving in the U.S. and less than 0.2 grams of trans fat per serving in Canada.
Canola oil works well in snack foods, such as tortilla chips and potato chips, Ms. Dansby said. For example, Hanover, Pa.-based Snyder’s of Hanover manufactures its pretzels, tortilla chips, soy crisps and multigrain snacks using canola oil.
Canola use has almost doubled in the United States in the past four years, said David Duzsiak, commercial leader for the oils business for Dow AgroSciences, L.L.C., Indianapolis.
"More people in packaged goods are looking at it," he said. "Demand is way up."
Canola oil may work in blends for baked foods. Two types of canola oil exist: commodity canola oil and higholeic/high-stability canola oil. The higholeic oil is more stable, allowing greater heat tolerance and longer shelf life.
More omegas on the way
Dow AgroSciences uses both canola oil and sunflowerseed oil in its omega-9 oils, which may be referred to as monounsaturated oils. Dow AgroSciences has found consumers prefer the name omega-9 oils to monounsaturated oils, and thus, the company will promote awareness of omega-9 oils.
Restaurants use omega-9 oils in a variety of applications, including deep frying, par-frying, baking, spraying, sautéing and as an ingredient in salad dressings. Four major oil suppliers offer omega-9 oils under the following brand names: Nutra-Clear NT from Bunge Oils, St. Louis; Canola Harvest HiLo from Canbra Foods Ltd., Lethbridge, Alta.; Mel-Fry Free canola from Ventura Foods, L.L.C., Brea, Calif.; and Frymax ZT from ACH Food Cos., Inc., Memphis, Tenn.
Omega-9 oils may improve shelf life in baking, Mr. Duzsiak said. The prolonged shelf life, for example, may keep crackers with oil sprayed on top from staling or rancidity. Dow Agro-Sciences has the capacity to produce billions of pounds of the omega-9 oils, Mr. Duzsiak said.
"We are taking orders for next year," he noted. Cottonseed oil, also free of trans fat, ranks as another choice for fried snacks.
"With its unique history, cottonseed oil could be a study in American food history," said Robert Reeves, president of the Institute of Shortening and Edible Oils, Washington. "This tried-and-true vegetable oil has played an integral role in food production for more than 150 years, pioneering the U.S. edible oils industry and transcending many food trends."
The National Cottonseed Products Association (N.C.P.A.) launched an educational marketing campaign this year to show how the oil may meet the needs of food processors, food service operators and restaurateurs.
"As consumer demand for transfree food increases, food processors and restaurants are scrambling to reformulate their recipes," said Ben Morgan, executive vice-president of the N.C.P.A. "The time is right to reintroduce cottonseed oil, while providing the food industry with as much information as possible."
Closing in on 1 billion lbs
Low-linolenic soybean oil is close to hitting the billion-lb mark, too, according to Qualisoy, a collaborative effort within the soybean industry to foster development and availability of healthier soybeans and soy oil. An expected 800 million lbs of low-linolenic soybean oil was to be available in 2007 with the amount rising to 1.3 billion lbs in 2008.
Qualisoy lists the following companies as suppliers of low-linolenic soybean oil: Archer Daniels Midland Co., Decatur, Ill.; Asoyia, L.L.C., Winfield, Iowa; Bunge; Cargill, Minneapolis; CHS, St. Paul, Minn.; and Zeeland Farm Services, Inc., Zeeland, Mich.
Qualisoy has other goals for soybean oil. Besides a maximum of 3% linolenic acid, which reduces the need for partial hydrogenation that creates trans fat, it hopes soybeans in the future may have a maximum of 7% saturated fat content and a minimum of 50% oleic acid.
Palm oil in blends
Palm oil has no trans fat and may work as a one-to-one replacement for partially hydrogenated oils in baked foods. However, palm oil is about 50% saturated fats. Many oil blends still include palm oil because of its functional benefits in baked foods.
"Palm oil and its fractions continue to be key components for reduced trans and reduced saturated fats," Mr. Wilson of AarhusKarlshamn said. "They deliver functional solid fat without hydrogenation and can be blended with other liquid oils to deliver lower levels of saturated fat. "Palm-based shortenings are highly versatile and are perfectly suited for bakery applications."
AarhusKarlshamn recently added to its EsSence line of bakery shortenings. Based on a blend of a liquid oil choice and a proprietary hardstock derived from palm and palm kernel oils, EsSence brand shortenings are not only free of trans fat but also nonhydrogenated and low in saturated fats. AarhusKarlshamn offers a line of Es-Sence brand shortenings with various melting points and solid fat curves. They range from 20% to 40% saturated fat and all contain less than 1% trans fat. Potential grain-based foods applications include cookies, pie shells, biscuits, wafers and breakfast foods.
The new EsSence EX36 margarine may be used to prepare laminated dough products, including puff pastry.
"This is an excellent margarine for puff pastry providing outstanding lift comparable to traditional hydrogenated shortenings," Mr. Wilson said. "It is specifically designed for use with automated dough lamination systems."
AarhusKarlshamn also recently launched a new frying oil and a nonlauric version of its original EsSence products made with palm kernel oil. The new frying oil, EsSence 8633, works especially well when frying donuts, Mr. Wilson said. The EsSence 8730 shortening is a more cost-effective version of the premier 86 series of EsSence shortenings.
Loders Croklaan, Channahon, Ill., used palm oil to develop SansTrans RS39 T2, a reduced saturates, no trans, nonhydrogenated all-purpose shortening. It is based on palm oil and canola oil.