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Fats & oils experts forecast strong growth in keto, health and specialty oil segments

Fats & oils experts forecast strong growth in keto, health and specialty oil segments

As consumers become more savvy about their health and well-being, keto formulations are trending in the fats & oils space while health, organic and specialty oils are on course to see bullish growth. FoodIngredientsFirst speaks to industry players, ADM, Corbion, Fuji Oil and Tradin Organic, about current demands in the category.

There is a growing trend for fats that work well in plant-based and alternative protein based foods. At the food product level, the key trends are plant-based and health related. Oils that offer a long shelf life are proving attractive at the moment.

However, there are some concerns over supply chain issues.

“We’ve noted increased interest in solutions that are “keto-friendly,” such as coconut oil, and there’s continued interest in specialty oils, such as walnut, grapeseed, and avocado. On the flip side, there are concerns about supply chain and availability for all oils, even commodity oils, such as soy and palm,” outlines Margaret Walsh, senior scientist, Corbion.

Boosting nutritional profiles

Corbion expects to see an increase in manufacturers looking for ways to replace partially hydrogenated oils (high trans fats) with other fats and oils to improve the nutritional profile of plant-based foods without negatively impacting eating quality. For non-food, there is continued interest in using fats and oils as feedstocks for a variety of value-added downstream products.

“For some Corbion products, we’ve replaced shortenings with a combination of liquid vegetable oil and Trancendim. This technology reduced our saturated fat levels, while maintaining the benefits of a traditional shortening,” says Walsh.

Corbion also offers select emulsifiers made from liquid vegetable oils. “Some of these are used in low-fat spreads, where controlling droplet sizes is extremely important to prevent water-weeping in the finished spread,” explains Walsh.

Dr.Toshiharu Arishima, deputy division head, oils & fats business, Fuji Oil says: “We see the development of plant-based fat solutions that can replace or evolve the functionality and taste characteristics of the fats found in dairy and meat products as an important area for product development.”

Another key area of focus is nutrition and health, particularly how to ensure that newly developed plant-based foods are making a positive contribution to consumer health.

“We have developed a series of fats called Redusat that combine a reduction in saturated fat with the hardness characteristics of either animal fats or plant-based fats such as palm, which are required for plant-based foods such as cheese alternatives,” says Arishima.

“The need for fats that work well in plant-based or other alternative-protein foods is a growing trend as people realize that fat has a role in the structure and taste of such products.:

“There is particularly a realization that taste, mouthfeel and juiciness – key attributes that lead to the deliciousness of the product – require good fat solutions that fit with the sustainable requirements of plant-based foods,” says Arishima.

Fuji Oil has conducted research into the role of omega-3 fats in reducing the risk of dementia, and developed low saturated and non-trans fats solutions to reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease.

“Fats are a necessary component of most foods and play an important role in our diets. In our home market in Japan, we are faced with an aging and shrinking population, so it is imperative that this population can age as healthily and actively as possible,” Arishima explains.

“In addition, ensuring that our fats are more stable to oxidation not only ensures product stability, but also reduces the consumption of oxidized components that could impact health.”

Plant-based fats in alternative products

Due to the growing demand for plant-based products, plant-based fats and oils are rising in demand as well. These oils help deliver the signature characteristics of meat and dairy-based products in alternative offerings, such as melt profile and spread in cheese, flavor release in non-dairy desserts and visual appeal in plant-based meats.

“Fats and oils support satiety, create the sense of an indulgent eating experience and can also play a key role in certain lifestyle diets. Keto comes to mind, but fats and oils are also important within the flexitarian trend,” says Michelle Peitz, technical solutions & marketing – oils, ADM.

In meat alternatives, solid vegetable fat-based systems target melt profiles at storage, cooking and eating temperatures. This functionality can be achieved with blends of different oils or by interesterification of soybean oils, palm oils or lauric fats.

Dairy alternatives rely on oils such as interesterified soybean oil, coconut or palm oils to create a creamy appearance and mouthfeel.

“Our custom blended oils help formulators extend shelf life, optimize functionality, enhance nutrition profiles and deliver exceptional tastes and textures, supporting the development of innovative alternative offerings,” explains Peitz.

Nuts and seeds with higher recognizable fat content, like flaxseed and coconut, may contribute to consumers’ functional and nutritious diet goals.

Product formulation

High stability oils that support a longer shelf life have been pegged by ADM as an important driver in the fats & oils category.

“The current category landscape has forced the industry to take a fresh look at circumstances we might have taken for granted before. High stability oils are a particular focus, because they have key functionality for shelf life and oxidative stability,” says Peitz.

In North America, for example, soybean oil is widely available, but its composition of polyunsaturated fatty acids can make oxidative stability more challenging to accomplish in some applications. “We are pushing the envelope and evaluating new ways to overcome the hurdles developers are facing,” says Peitz.

“Drawing on our expertise in fats and oils and across a variety of ingredients and systems, we support full product formulation. For instance, if an oil with lower stability is being considered in a bar application, we assess implications of stabilizing grain oxidation with antioxidants, such as a potential effect on flavor.”

“With our in-house specialists in milling, antioxidants and sensory sciences, we are able to offer holistic input for an optimized finished product,” explains Peitz.

Healthy oils on an upward trajectory

Tradin Organic forecasts that the strong interest in healthy oils will continue to grow in the areas of healthy cooking oils such as avocado oil and healthy organic culinary oils such as pumpkin, hemp and extra virgin olive oil.

Consumers are increasingly aware that eating good-quality organic food improves their overall health and immunity. The company believes this trend will continue to grow.

Mark Boiler, business unit manager, Tradin Organic says: “We are looking at creating different oil blends to optimize those health benefits. For example, we can provide a complete omega (3-6-9) blend by combining flax, hemp and evening primrose oil for the food supplement soft gel capsules industry or we combine avocado and sunflower to promote a special cooking oil with a high boiling point,” explains Boiler.

Supply chain fortification

Industry specialists have extensively mentioned their challenges with supply chain issues at this time and are not certain how these will affect the market in the near future or the long run.

“The food industry has struggled with supply chain issues for fats, oils, and downstream items. This means that some R&D work is devoted to finding temporary or permanent replacements for these ingredients, says Walsh.

Boiler indicates that Tradin Organic is heavily focusing on securing supply for its commodity oil customers. “Due to the situation in Ukraine, the sunflower oil market especially has been very short of supply. We are making sure we can provide all existing contracts without delay to our clients, which until now we have managed to do.”

The company’s organic sunflower processing facilities in Bulgaria Suncomo has been a vital contributor in assuring the supply stability thus far.

“The new seed harvest is around the corner for sunflower and canola, among others, so the market is very dynamic at the moment and remains volatile,” says Boiler.

New technologies

Fuji Oil observes a greater emphasis on new technologies that can replace animal fats or reduce the food industry’s dependency on palm and other crop-derived fats, at an R&D and start-up level.

“There are already various groups working on the extraction of fats from microorganisms and new technologies such as precision fermentation are being applied to produce specific fats by microbial fermentation. In addition, we see new sources such as insect-derived fats being reported,” says Arishima.

Fuji Oil’s key R&D focus is to plant-based solutions for the global food industry with an in-depth focus on replacing the structure, mouthfeel, taste and other functionalities provided by animal fats.

“We are ever conscious of issues that impact food safety. Our focus on reducing process contaminants is a continuous activity,” Arishima adds.

Driven in particular by upcoming changes in EU legislation, the industry as a whole is driven to reduce process-related contaminants both by managing the supply of raw materials and by introducing new process technologies “to reduce contaminants that cannot be removed by good supply chain management,” Arishima concurs.

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