Swinging the pendulum on fats

by Jeff Gelski
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While consumer aware-ness of trans fat as a “bad” fat has grown over the past eight years, food manufacturers now may want to know what other terms, such as partial hydrogenation and saturated fats, have the potential to attract additional consumer concern. Manufacturers also may have an opportunity to promote positive aspects of fats and oils.

“Can the food industry take a leading position and give consumers a new perspective on the fats and oils in foods via innovative products?” said Kimberly Egan, chief executive officer/principal for the Center for Culinary Development, in a culinary trend mapping report released this year.

The report also said, “Food manufacturers and restaurant operators are in a key position to advance the conversation on what’s good for the body and good for flavor when it comes to fats. The biggest opportunity comes from toppling the consumer mindset that all fats are bad. That’s incorrect, and we need to work together to dispel this negativity and swing the pendulum back to a more balanced position.”

The report cited rice bran oil and oil from nuts as having promotable health benefits. Rice bran oil has no trans fat and mostly consists of monounsaturated fats. It is low in saturated fats and contains vitamin E. A high smoke point makes it suitable as a frying oil.

According to the Almond Board of California, Modesto, Calif., a 28-gram serving of almonds has 13 grams of unsaturated fat and 1 gram of saturated fat.

“As the fear of fat declines, many consumers are embracing the concept of good sources of fat for their diet,” the Center for Culinary Development report said. “In that context, nuts are already rising stars, particularly walnuts and almonds, which have lots of good-for-you vitamins packed alongside monounsaturated fats.”

The report gave examples for uses such as walnut oil in vinaigrette, pistachio oil over beets and pecan oil as a garnish for pumpkin soup.

Comparing trans and saturated

Much of the negative coverage on fats and oils has focused on trans fat and saturated fats. According to the International Food Information Council Foundation’s 2011 Food & Health Survey, 60% of Americans are concerned about the type of fats consumed. Fifty-six per cent are trying to limit consumption of saturated fat, and 49% are trying to limit consumption of trans fat.

According to the 18th annual “Consumer Attitudes about Nutrition” from the United Soybean Board, Chesterfield, Mo., 21% of Americans in 2011 perceived saturated fat to be healthier than trans fat and 10% perceived trans fat to be healthier than saturated fat, which marked a contrast from 2003 when the percentages were 30% for saturated fat and 41% for trans fat. After the F.D.A. in 2006 made food manufacturers list trans fat on the Nutrition Facts Panel, the percentages changed. Saturated fat was perceived as healthier by 42% in 2007 while trans fat was perceived healthier by 16%. Since then, the numbers for saturated have fallen, to 35% in 2009 and 21% in 2011, while the numbers for trans fat rose to 19% in 2009 and fell to 10% in 2011.

Trans fat was in the news in January of this year. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Bentonville, Ark., said it planned to remove all industrially produced trans fat (partially hydrogenated fats and oil) in all its packaged food products by 2015. Companies that may have had a goal of trans fat of less than 0.5 grams per serving, which qualifies for 0 grams per serving on the Nutrition Facts Panel, now may seek to remove all industrially produced trans fats from their products and partially hydrogenated oil from their ingredient lists.

Caravan Ingredients, Lenexa, Kas., offers Trancendim oil for donut frying. The oil has 0 grams of trans fat, a reduced amount of saturated fat and the elimination of hydrogenation from the ingredient declaration. AarhusKarlshamn, which has a U.S. office in Port Newark, N.J., offers an EsSence line of bakery shortenings that are based on a blend of liquid oil of choice and a proprietary hardstock derived from palm and palm kernel oils. EsSence brand shortenings are free of trans fat, non-hydrogenated and low in saturated fats.

Cheese powders in snacks as well as spices and seasonings may need reformulation to eliminate partial hydrogenation, said Willie Loh, vice-president of marketing oils and shortening for Cargill, Minneapolis.

Cargill already offers the Clear Valley brand of oils and shortenings that have 0 grams of trans fat and are low in saturated fat. Canola oil, sunflower oil and flaxseed oil are used in various blends in Clear Valley brand products. In one instance a quick-service restaurant chain used a blend of Clear Valley high-oleic canola oil and corn oil and created french fries with 0 grams of trans fat per serving while reducing saturated fat content by 42%.

Dow AgroSciences, Indiana-polis, this year said its omega-9 fatty acid oils have helped remove more than 1 billion lbs of saturated fat and trans fat from the North American diet since their introduction in 2006. Omega-9 fatty acid oils are made from Dow AgroSciences’ Nexera canola and sunflower seeds. The oils have a high combination of high-oleic (omega-9) fatty acids and low-linolenic fatty acids.

Archer Daniels Midland Co., Decatur, Ill., offers a NovaLipid line of oils and shortenings that have 0 grams of trans fat per serving.

“ADM’s NovaLipid options can be used to reduce saturated fat,” said Tom Tiffany, senior technical manager for ADM. “We offer oil options as low as 7% saturates and shortening options with saturate ranges from 28% to 45%.”

Palm oil has no trans fat but is high in saturated fat. Palm oil supplier Loders Croklaan, Channahon, Ill., has argued recent scientific studies cast doubt as to whether saturated fat has negative effects on cholesterol and whether it should be viewed as a “bad” fat.

Loders Croklaan does offer options that have no trans fat and a reduced amount of saturated fat. SansTrans VLS 30, an all-purpose shortening, is designed to offer a 30% reduction in saturated fat without increasing the annual shortening spend. SansTrans VLS 40, an emulsified shortening, offers formulators the ability to reduce saturated fat up to 15% and decrease the annual shortening costs by up to 10%.

Innovations in oleic

The use of high-oleic oil has the potential to improve both the nutritional profile and functional characteristics of products.

Pioneer Hi-Bred, a DuPont business that is based in Johnston, Iowa, is introducing Plenish high-oleic soybeans to make soybean oil that will have 0 grams of trans fat per serving and 22% less saturated fat than commodity soybean oil. The oil displays higher heat stability for frying, provides stability for manufactured baked foods and extends the shelf life of manufactured products, according to Pioneer. Last month Pioneer Hi-Bred and Bunge North America, St. Louis, said they will work with farmers near Bunge’s facility in Delphos, Ohio, to grow Plenish high-oleic soybeans in 2012.

The integration of such high-oleic oils should be another way to swing the pendulum of fats into a more positive position over the next several years.

“High-oleic oils will comp-lement ADM’s NovaLipid port-folio of options very well,” Mr. Tiffany said. “High-oleic oils provide oxidative stability as standalone oils, and as well in palm blends or enzymatically interesterified shortenings.”

Research seeks to give protein the same functions as fat

EDE, THE NETHERLANDS — Two companies in The Netherlands are collaborating to develop protein-based ingredients to replace fats in their products. In the three-year project Vion Food Group, a food producer based in Eindhoven, and Nizo, a food research company based in Ede, will use proteins derived from vegetable and animal origins.

Proteins contain about half the calories of fat. To be used in creating new products, the proteins will need to take over the functions of fat, namely providing taste, structure, mouthfeel and stability.

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