New fats and oils — and new processing methods — can boost baked products' health profile.
As trans fats become increasingly scarce, bakers are turning their attention to saturated fats. Using what they've learned in trans fat reduction, fats and oils providers have discovered the means to lower saturated fat levels in their products.
Forthcoming in the fats and oil industry are a range of new oils appropriate for wholesale baking applications that target health-conscious consumers' needs, says Roger Daniels, director of new product development at Bunge Oils, Bradley, Ill.
Daniels predicts wholesale bakers will find new ways to incorporate these fats and oils in order to market their products' healthful nature. In the process, he says, bakers may come up with new uses for existing product lines or create entirely new product categories.
“Bakers will be looking at how else they can use a bagel that may not have been considered in the past.” Daniels says. “Or they will ask themselves, ‘What other uses are there for sweet yeast-raised products that have yet to be considered?’”
Still, the prime focus for new and existing products will be the inclusion of fewer saturated fats, says Gerald McNeill, Ph.D., vice president of research and development at fats and oils producer Loders Croklaan, Channahon, Ill.
Consumers are becoming more knowledgeable about the health risks saturated fats can pose, and they're reading labels to examine saturated fat content, he says. This is why wholesale bakers are looking for oils and fats that can help reduce the amount of saturated fat in their products.
McNeill expects consumer vigilance to continue, even in light of recent research that suggests this type of fat may not play as great a role in heart disease as scientists initially thought. In January, an analysis appeared in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that claimed no clear link exists between saturated fat intake and heart disease.
Former American Heart Association president Robert Eckel warned against over-interpreting the study's results. Many studies have shown that dietary saturated fat can raise cholesterol levels. The new analysis shouldn't change recommendations to keep saturated fat intake in check, according to Eckel.
Because of this, wholesale bakers should remain vigilant in efforts to keep saturated and trans fat levels in products low, McNeill says.
To that end, producers of oils and fats used in the baking process are working on methods to reduce the amount of saturated fat in the oils they supply. “We've eliminated trans fat, so now we're focusing on saturated fat reduction,” McNeill says.
Trans fat is unsaturated fat with trans-isomer fatty acid. It may be monounsaturated or polyunsaturated, but it's never saturated. After the FDA began requiring food manufacturers to list trans fat on the nutrition facts panel of their products, manufacturers were forced to decrease the amount of this type of fat in their products.
Now saturated fat is set to follow suit. A method of oil production called fractionation allows oil and fat suppliers to decrease the amount of saturated fat in the palm oils they supply. This is the same method that is used to reduce trans fat in palm oil.
“Palm oil is 50 percent saturated fat, which is a bit on the high side, though the other 50 percent is unsaturated,” McNeill says. “But the label is important, and people are reading the label. So in more recent times we've been focusing on saturated fat reduction.”
In the fractionation process, palm oil is heated and then cooled, which separates the lower-melting point liquids from the higher-melting point liquids. The fractions with the higher melting points are thicker at room temperature than the lower-melting point fractions, McNeill says.
Palm oil is used for this because it's a flexible vegetable oil that contains triglycerides that are liquid at room temperature, triglycerides that melt at about body temperature and triglycerides that melt at a higher-than-body temperature, he adds.
The fractionation process can be performed again on already fractionated oils by combining the fractionated oils with another oil, a process McNeill calls rerun fractionation rerun or “son of fractionation.” This further separates saturated and unsaturated oils.
The thicker oils derived after fractionation will have a higher concentration of saturated fats and will be used in margarines and shortenings. For instance, using the fractionation process, Loders Croklaan produces SansTrans 39, an all-purpose shortening with 35 percent saturated fat. To create this oil, soybean or canola oil is used as the liquid oil. The fractionated oil can be used in almost any application that requires a solid fat, McNeill says.
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“Generally, where you would mix it in with flour and sugar to form a dough it works well, but it doesn't work for laminating fats,” he adds.
Laminating fats that are lower than 50 percent saturated fat are harder to make via fractionation, as the fats need to be soft for use in scones and puff pastries, he says.
For this, the company has produced two versions of SansTrans Roll-Rite — one for pies and scones and another for puff pastry. The saturated fat in these oils range from 35 to 40 percent and, as the name implies, help create dough that can be spread into a thin layer without tearing.
“It may be 40 percent, but it's not 50 percent, which is standard without fractionation,” McNeill says.
Another fractionated oil used in icings contains around 40 percent saturated fat; again, about 10 percent better than the 50 percent commonly found in palm oil.
“Icing can't firm up over time and regular palm oil does get firmer, so this is formulated so that doesn't happen,” McNeill says.
Although Daniels praises the myriad possibilities available when working with palm oil, he mentions that palm has one downside: availability.
“You want to make sure you have a ready supply available for the baker, and with palm oil growing close to the equator, it's difficult to make sure enough of that is available to U.S. markets,” Daniels says.
This is why fats and oil producers are turning to the next generation of oils: those made from seaweed. These oils include linolenic acids that can help with the body's metabolic processes, Daniels says. These oils can be made with minimal processing and can be used to create a shortening for wholesale baking.
A high oleic soybean oil made using biotechnology tools is now under development by a number of different partnering companies. The resulting soybean oil has one of the highest oleic contents among oilseed crops, and lower total saturated fats than conventional soybeans.
Application testing has shown that high oleic soybean oil can replace regular canola, soy and partially hydrogenated oils in edible applications where increased stability is required. The oil received FDA approval in 2009 and is awaiting USDA approval, Daniels says.
“The shelf life potential is quite high in that it's based on soybean, which is found within the United States,” he says.
Wholesale bakers have a lot of choices in the fats and oils department, whether they're looking to promote products that feature lower saturated fat levels than in the past or all-new healthful fats and oils.