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Interestification plays a role in creating shortenings without partially hydrogenated oils.

It is a difficult word to pronounce, but interesterification may make tasks easier for formulators, especially those looking to use shortening without partially hydrogenated oils.

Interesterification involves rearranging the fatty acids of oils, said Frank Flider, a consultant for Qualisoy. Such action may allow formulators to create shortening for specific applications, he said. For example, frying shortening has a different melting characteristic than that for icing shortening, a cake shortening or a donut shortening.

“When you think of shortening, you think of something like Crisco, which is just kind of a solid fat, but with a shortening, you can change its melting characteristics or its physical characteristics so that you can match it to the application that you need,” Mr. Flider said.

In less than three years formulators may not be able to rely on partially hydrogenated oils in shortening or in any other instance. The Food and Drug Administration in the June 17 issue of the Federal Register said it has determined there is no longer a consensus among qualified experts that partially hydrogenated oils (phos), which are the primary dietary source of industrially produced trans fatty acids, are Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) for any use in human food. Food companies have until June 18, 2018, to remove phos from their products.

Consumers’ views on phos increasingly may become negative. How might consumers view the term interesterification?

“It’s a long word that people don’t like to see on their labels,” Mr. Flider said.

He said industry is investigating a possible name change.

Interesterification may be done enzymatically or chemically, Mr. Flider said. Some prefer enzymatic interesterification.

“Enzymatically interesterified oils offer the advantage of delivering products that have a more standardized modification profile because the enzyme helps achieve consistent results,” said Monica Zelaya-Brown, custom innovation manager for AAK. “In contrast, a chemical modification makes changes to the molecule randomly. Therefore, the actual composition varies, though minimally each time. Enzymatically interesterified shortenings may deliver more consistent results during the crystallization of such fats.”

Archer Daniels Midland Co., Chicago, uses enzymatic interesterification in its NovaLipid line. In comparing enzymatic to chemical, ADM said the oils in the enzymatic process are subjected to less severe processing conditions, which results in a more environmentally friendly process that also increases functionality.

Shortenings, even when using interesterification, still may need a hard stock like fully hydrogenated oil and a liquid portion like high-oleic oil, Mr. Flider said. Qualisoy, an independent, third-party collaboration among growers and manufacturers in the soybean industry, next year plan to test icing shortening, cookie shortening and regular cake shortening.

Different high-oleic oils

High-oleic oils offer a functional and label-friendly alternative to phos for many applications, said Bob Wainwright, innovation director of the oils and shortenings group for Cargill and based in Charlotte, N.C. They deliver the required shelf life without the need for partial hydrogenation. Cargill has worked with high-oleic oils sourced from soy, canola and sunflower.

“To a very, very large extent, they are rather substitutable,” Mr. Wainwright said.

Sunflower is non-bioengineered, but it costs more, too, he said.

Lab shortening
Changing the melting characteristics or physical characteristics of a shortening may allow it to fit a specific application.

“It’s typically the premium priced oil simply because of supply,” Mr. Wainwright said.

Bunge uses proprietary non-lipid ingredients, blending and crystallization processes (triacylglycerols mismatch) to reduce saturated fat levels by more than 40% in all-purpose and emulsified shortening. Bunge has used high-oleic canola oil in the shortenings, and high-oleic soybean oil may be used, too, said Dilip Nakhasi, direction of innovation, R.&D.

IOI Loders Croklaan, Channahon, Ill., includes information about shortening at its web site. The company has developed more than 200 pho-free free systems that offer functionality across a range of applications leveraging the versatility of palm oil.

Stratas Foods, L.L.C. offers Flex Palm, which may create shortenings that function more like partially hydrogenated shortening, according to the company. Flex Palm involves a process called functional crystallization, which makes sure the least amount of crystals are formed as possible to keep a product together. Larger crystal formulations may create a harder product, jeopardizing its functionality.

Issues with icing

Many formulators see developing icing shortenings without phos as especially challenging.

“Icing shortenings are one of the industry’s key focus areas for pho removal as these fats are essential for the structuring, aeration and heat/shelf life stability of the finished product,” Ms. Zelaya-Brown said. “Pho shortenings are very versatile and deliver a good stability profile that could be harder to meet with non-pho solutions.”

Icing and shortenings are used together with emulsifiers to aid and maintain aeration. AAK only considers non-pho-emulsifier systems for its icing shortening design.

Icings and frostings rely substantially on the shortening component to convey the required structure, the body and the overall attributes of the finished product, Mr. Wainwright said. In icings and frostings, a fully hydrogenated stock is used in conjunction with other components, including commodity oils, high-oleic oils and/or palm, Mr. Wainwright said. Formulators may choose from several sources for the fully hydrogenated stock.

“In applications like this, typically either a fully hydrogenated cottonseed oil or a fully hydrogenated palm oil are the choice because of the attributes they deliver to the overall recipe when they crystallize,” he said.

The melting curve is key in shortenings for icings and frostings, Mr. Flider said.

“You need an icing that will melt in your mouth when you bite into it, get a nice cooling flavor, but you also need something that when refrigerated, it doesn’t get all hard and crack,” he said.