Heart-Healthy, Sustainable High Oleic Soybean Oil Replaces Palm Oil in Baking Applications

More and more, today’s consumers want foods to be healthy for themselves and for the planet. While personal nutrition, health, and wellness are priorities, U.S. shoppers also value knowing how the foods they consume affect the rest of the world. Sustainability is top-of-mind for many grocery shoppers; young adults especially value brands that have light ecological footprints and commit to responsible stewardship and social principles.

As the market trends toward healthy, sustainable ingredients, palm oil may be falling out of favor with U.S. consumers. Health-conscious consumers, in accordance with dietary guidance from the American Heart Association (AHA), seek to reduce their intake of saturated fat. Moreover, a spike in negative news coverage has raised public awareness of environmental and humanitarian concerns related to palm kernel production and processing.

Food processors and commercial bakeries are taking notice and seeking alternatives, such as high oleic soybean oil and blends, for use in their baking applications.

Heart-Healthy Alternative to Palm Oil

U.S. consumption of palm oil swelled following the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) ban on partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) from food processing. PHOs are high in trans fats, which the FDA and AHA maintain contribute to cardiovascular disease. In need of a partially hydrogenated oil replacement, food processors turned to palm oil. The high presence of saturated fat in palm oil helps it to maintain PHO-like stability at higher temperatures. However, stability comes at a cost. Formulating with palm oil is healthier than using PHOs but is by no means heart healthy. In contrast, formulating with high oleic soybean oil, which has up to 75% less saturated fat than palm oil, increases the amount of desirable unsaturated fats in applications. In fact, in November 2018, the FDA authorized qualified heart health claims about replacing saturated fat-rich oils with high oleic oils, including high oleic soybean oil. This is good news for CPG manufacturers looking to make a heart healthy claim on a product label.

Sustainable Oil from the U.S.A.

Switching to high oleic soybean oil and shortening encourages positive attitudes toward brands, while eliminating palm oil’s negative associations. The palm oil industry is under political and economic pressure, as countries have taken to placing strict controls and even outright bans on imports. Last year, the palm industry reeled from a halt on European Union exports for biofuel production. Moreover, the industry became the subject of several high-profile investigative news stories that shed light on the environmental and humanitarian concerns, as well as labor and land rights issues, that surround palm production.

Palm oil is transported to the U.S. mostly from plantations in southeast Asia and Africa, whereas high oleic soybean oil is sustainably grown right here at home by U.S. farmers. By replacing palm oil with high oleic soybean oil, brands can reduce their environmental impact without compromising social principles. Furthermore, high oleic soybean oil’s excellent stability and performance in bakery applications makes it easy to transition from palm oil.

The Drop-In Palm Oil Replacement

Just as it is a true drop-in PHO replacement, high oleic soybean oil can replace palm oil in nearly any CPG application. Furthermore, it performed as well or better than palm oil in tests for shelf stability and performance in shortenings for cakes and icing, as well as donut fry oil.

High oleic soybean oil performs exceptionally well when processed into solid and semi-solid shortenings. The process, called interesterification (IE), produces a shortening with favorable melting curves and other properties similar to partially hydrogenated products. IE shortenings made from high oleic soybean oil perform similarly to their PHO predecessors but without trans fats.

In icings, high oleic soybean oil outperformed palm oil in a 12-month shelf stability study. When compared to palm shortening, high oleic soybean shortening had a wider temperature range in which it was workable. It also showed a low rate of change in viscosity, similar to the performance of PHOs in the same application. After a year, buttercream icing made with high oleic soybean shortening slightly increased in specific gravity, whereas the specific gravity of icing made with palm shortening significantly declined into an undesirable, “greasy feeling” range.

High oleic soybean oil has an oxidative resistance index of over 20 hours. The high stability oil resists polymerization during deep frying better than conventional oils and can last three times as long. Longer fry life means less equipment cleaning and lower overall costs of production.

Furthermore, donuts fried in shortening made from high oleic soybean oil showed less weeping than palm-soy based fry oil blends. Less weeping means less oil leeches to the donut’s surface, making the fried treat more appealing and appetizing.

Growth and Potential in High Oleic Soybean Oil

As food processing shifts away from palm oil, U.S. farmers are working with seed technology companies and the United Soybean Board (USB) to rapidly expand high oleic soybean acreage. USB expects the supply to reach nearly two billion pounds by 2020 and more than nine billion pounds by 2027. That said, high oleic soybean oils and blends are currently commercially available to formulators looking right now to replace palm oil in their applications. To try high oleic soybean oil in your applications, request a sample.


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