Next generation nears

by Jeff Gelski
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Government has given its regulatory blessing. Farmers are growing the soybeans, and food companies and oil suppliers are testing the new oil. The path to market entry thus proceeds for high-oleic soybean oil, which may fall into the category of “next generation oils.”

Both Pioneer Hi-Bred and Monsanto Co. have developed high-oleic soybean oils, which they promote for functional and health benefits. Meanwhile, other next generation oils still in the research pipeline may have higher levels of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

Pioneer Hi-Bred, a business unit of E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co. and based in Des Moines, Iowa, offers Plenish high-oleic soybean oil. It is more than 75% oleic content and has 20% less saturated fat than commodity soybean oil. Linolenic acid content of less than 3% compares to 7% for commodity soybean oil. Less linolenic acid means the oil is more stable.

“This year and next are really important years in our market development phase,” said Susan Knowlton, senior research manager for Pioneer Hi-Bred and based in Wilmington, Del. “It’s being widely tested by a number of large companies. The timing of their product development matches ours.”

She said more than 40 large food companies are experimenting with Plenish.

“It can take awhile, particularly when you’ve got shelf life studies that can go on for over a year,” Dr. Knowlton said.

Archer Daniels Midland Co., Decatur, Ill., Bunge North America, St. Louis, and Stratus Foods, Memphis, Tenn., are working with Plenish oil, too, Dr. Knowlton said.

High-oleic soybean oil may be used as a spray oil, incorporated into dough or used as a frying medium for grain-based foods, said Tom Tiffany, senior technical manager for ADM.

“The oil offers very good oxidative stability along with a clean flavor,” he said. “A few examples of how this could be used include as a spray oil in crackers, a frying medium for the production of grain-based snacks and as a general baking oil.”

Plenish high-oleic soybean oil may have a longer fry life, which may lead to a reduction in cost, Dr. Knowlton said. Food service operators, for example, may need to change out the oil every other week instead of every week. When using the oil with some grain-based foods, including donuts, a hard stock oil such as palm oil may be needed, she said.

“We think we got it pretty right with Plenish,” Dr. Knowlton said. “To be honest, this is the one the industry’s really been waiting for.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2010 approved the Plenish high-oleic soybean trait for cultivation in the United States. John Motter, director of the United Soybean Board and chair of the Ohio Soybean Council, grew the soybeans in 2011.

“I’ve had great success with Plenish high-oleic soybeans,“ he said. “During this year’s harvest (2011) my Plenish soybeans yielded higher than my overall farm average at 55 bus an acre, and agronomic performance was outstanding.”

Lawrence Onweller, a soybean farmer near Delta, Ohio, added, “I grew Plenish high-oleic soybeans on my farm in 2011 and was very happy with the overall yields. The Pioneer brand Plenish high-oleic soybean variety 93Y30 (RR) I grew on my farm endured some very tough conditions throughout the growing season with a very wet spring and dry summer.”

Widespread use by 2013

In August 2011, Pioneer and ADM announced that ADM will contract for Plenish high-oleic soybeans in 2012 with the intention of marketing the oil for use by the food industry in 2013. ADM last year began inviting soybean growers in the Frankfort, Ind., area to contract with ADM to produce Plenish soybeans.

In October of 2011, Pioneer and Bunge North America announced they will work with farmers near Bunge’s facility in Delphos, Ohio, to grow Plenish soybeans in 2012.

Already available for food service operators, Frymax soy oil from Stratas Foods is a deep frying, high-oleic soybean oil that is 77% monounsaturated fat.

Monsanto also is mak-ing progress with its Vistive Gold high-oleic soybean oil. The U.S.D.A. in December 2011 deregulated the biotech trait, MON 87705, in Monsanto’s Vistive Gold soybeans, which produce soybean oil with increased levels of monounsaturated fat. Vistive Gold soybean oil has oleic content of 75%, and it has 60% less saturated fat than conventional soybean oil and increased monounsaturated fat, which leads to improved oil stability. Linolenic acid content is less than 3%.

The lower saturated fat content of the high-oleic oils is important since the Dallas-based American Heart Association warns eating foods that contain saturated fats raises the level of cholesterol in blood.

Palm oil suppliers have disputed the idea that saturated fat has negative heart health effects. They may point to a meta-analysis of prospective epidemiologic studies involving 347,747 people that was published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The meta-analysis showed no significant evidence that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease or cardiovascular disease.

Still, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, people should limit their consumption of foods high in saturated fatty acids and replace them with foods rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids and monounsaturated fatty acids. Omega-9 fatty acids are monounsaturated fatty acids while omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Dow AgroSciences, L.L.C., Indianapolis, developed Nexera canola and sunflower seeds that have high-oleic content. Nexera then was used to create the Omega 9 canola oil and sunflowerseed oil.

ADM also is working to increase omega-9 fatty acid content.

“ADM is working with omega-9 canola oil along with using enzymatic interesterification with the high-oleic oils to produce unique melting profiles for a variety of applications,” Mr. Tiffany said.

Omega-3 levels rise up

Several forms of omega-3 fatty acids exist. The body converts one form, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), into two other forms of omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are found in fish oil. The Food and Drug Administration has a qualified health claim for reduced risk of coronary heart disease on conventional foods that contain EPA and DHA.

The global omega-3 fatty acid market is expected to grow to $3.21 billion in 2016 from $1.48 billion in 2010 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.8% from 2011 to 2016, according to the report “Omega 3 & 6 Market by Source, Applications, Geography Trends & Global Forecasts (2011-2016)” from Marketsandmarkets, a market research and consulting company based in Dallas.

Many consumers have a positive image of omega-3 fatty acids, too. According to the 2011 edition of “Consumer attitudes about nutrition: Insights into nutrition, health and soyfoods” from the St. Louis-based United Soybean Board, 79% of respondents viewed omega-3 fatty acids as very/somewhat healthy.

Increasing omega-3 fatty acid content in oils comes with challenges, however.

“Oils with higher levels of omega-3 oils always create challenges due to their lack of inherent stability,” Mr. Tiffany of ADM said. “Coupling the right antioxidant system and packaging regime may allow for oils with high levels of omega-3 to be used in these applications.”

Work in Bunge’s Delta oil series includes efforts to increase omega-3 fatty acid content, said Dilip Nakhasi, director of innovations, R.&D., for the Bunge Ingredient Innovation Center in Bradley, Ill. Researchers use structural lipids to protect polyunsaturated fatty acids, including omega-3 fatty acids, from oxidation.

A Delta-Dry powdered nutritional lipid, for example, may be used in bakery applications as well as sports drink mixes, milk-based powdered drink mixes, infant formulas, gravies and sauces. It has 50 grams of fat per 100-gram serving, which includes 18 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 17 grams of saturated fat and 8 grams of monounsaturated fat.

The challenge of adding omega-3 fatty acids conflicts with functionality in a product, said Willie Loh, vice-president of marketing, Cargill Oils and Shortenings. While partial hydrogenation may provide more functionality, the act of partial hydrogenation may create trans fat and eliminate omega-3 fatty acids.

Cargill under its Clear Valley brand offers an oil blend of flax oil and canola oil. Food manufacturers may use it to create products that qualify for nutrient content claims such as “good source of ALA omega-3 fatty acids” or “excellent source of ALA omega-3 fatty acids.”

Cargill also is working with BASF Plant Science to develop canola oil that contains EPA and DHA. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), EPA/DHA consumption in the United States is less than 185 mg per day. According to Cargill, health experts in various countries recommend EPA/DHA intake of 250 to 500 mg per day for positive health benefits.

The Solae Co., St. Louis, promotes Soymega, an oil that is 20% stearidonic acid (SDA). This omega-3 fatty acid also is converted in the body into EPA and DHA. Potential applications for Soymega include baked foods, soups, beverages, snack bars, dressings, yogurts, margarines and shortenings.

Consumer awareness of omega-3 fatty acids and other healthier fats may be increasing. The mindset on fat may follow a similar arc for that followed by carbohydrates, according to “Fats and Oils: Culinary Trend Report” put out last December by Packaged Facts and the Center for Culinary Development. Many consumers now know carbohydrates come in different forms.

“We suspect that fats are coming next into the limelight, and the same good-fat, bad-fat consumer will be applied,” said Kimberly Egan, chief executive officer of the Center for Culinary Development.

Expect next generation oils to play a role in increasing supply of such “good” fats.
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