Five years ago, the solution was simple. If bakers wanted to eliminate trans fats from their bakery foods, they removed partially hydrogenated soybean oil and substituted it with palm and palm kernel oil.
These oils possess similar functionalities to partially hydrogenated soybean oils, and offered a fairly simple solution for eliminating trans fats. Most importantly, the oils are in consistent supply and naturally semi-solid.
However, palm and palm kernel oils possess saturated fats. At the beginning of the trans-fats debate, this tradeoff was not desirable, but acceptable. After all, trans fats were public enemy No. 1.
However, in today’s health conscious environment, this concession no longer is desirable.
"The Center for Science in the Public Interest is standing on the threshold of going out and attacking saturated fats again," one shortening and oil supplier says.
As a result, bakers’ goals have changed, one shortening and oil supplier says, from solely eliminating trans fats to improving the overall health profile of their products while still maintaining functionality. Whereas levels of trans fats and saturated fats were once looked at separately, today bakers are looking at saturated plus trans levels.
"Our challenge has changed to replacing trans fats and hydrogenation, but not increasing saturated fats, and preferably decreasing saturated fats," one shortening and oil supplier says.
Manufacturers are overcoming this challenge with blended oil products that bring together fractions of palm and palm kernel oil with liquid oil. These blends mix together a hard stock material (palm or palm kernel) with a liquid (vegetable oil).
"It’s a very common solution and it’s a good solution because it allows you to have a better nutritional profile by blending a liquid fat with a solid hard stock," one shortening and oil supplier says.
Although many types of vegetable oils may be used in the blend, canola oil has become a favorite due to its low saturated fat levels. By blending canola oil with palm and palm kernel fractions, many bakers have eliminated trans fats, maintained pre-formulation saturated fat levels and eliminated "hydrogenation" from the ingredient listing.
When undertaking a major shortening and oil reformulation, it is essential for bakers to balance stability, nutrition and functionality. It also is important to keep the brand’s promise in the forefront. Bakers should note the following key attributes throughout the reformulation process: flavor release, stability, machineability, crystallization rate, mouthfeel and oil migration.
Bakers also must realize that a drop-in solution does not exist and reformulation costs a significant amount of money and time.
"There is not a one-size-fits-all turnkey fat," one shortening and oil supplier says. "It is common for reformulation to change many things, including processing, the cooling profile and the amount of fat used in a formulation."
Problem Solver Quick Tip
Bakers’ goals have changed from solely eliminating trans fats to improving the overall health profile of their products while still maintaining functionality. Whereas levels of trans fats and saturated fats once used to be looked at separately, today bakers are looking at saturated plus trans levels.