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Against the sunflower oil crisis
"Reformulation to address edible oil crisis requires deep science"
A systematic, science-led approach is needed to address the complex processing challenges of reformulating foods in response to the current shortage of sunflower oil.
That's the advice of biophysics, biochemistry and food engineering specialists at R&D consultancy Sagentia Innovation. Due to the unique functional and nutritional properties of sunflower oil, it is not always easy to switch to a suitable alternative, they say.
Sunflower oil consists mainly of polyunsaturated linoleic acid and monounsaturated oleic acid. The proportion of these unsaturated fatty acids can be controlled through careful cultivation and post-harvest processing. Sunflower oil also has a neutral flavor profile, high vitamin E content and a high smoke point. These characteristics, along with its relatively low cost and role in properties such as shelf life, justify its wide use as an ingredient.
Sagentia Innovation has published guides on how food manufacturers can overcome this reformulation challenge and avoid market disruption. In addition to the benefits of a structured, methodical approach, key information on smoke point, health and taste characteristics of 20 sunflower oil alternatives is highlighted. Maria Spinetta, industry manager for food and beverage at Sagentia Innovation, says these three characteristics should be evaluated up front when considering substitute oils.
"It's important to understand the scientific properties of sunflower oil and how it works in food matrices," Spinetta explains. "When considering alternatives, you have to take into account how they affect the product in question. For example, in baked goods, oils affect sensory attributes such as texture and mouthfeel, while in packaged snacks they play a larger role in shelf life, stability and flavor. Smoke point is particularly important in products with high processing temperatures, as using the wrong type of oil can lead to rancidity and loss of nutritional value. Allergenicity is another important consideration."
Switching to a different oil can not only affect the nutritional value and sensory properties of foods, but also has supply chain implications. This can impact unit economics and sustainability. In some cases, manufacturers may need to explore other ingredients such as hydrocolloids or new processing technologies that replace baking or frying.
"Food reformulation always raises a number of technical considerations related to processing, sensory properties and nutritional value," Spinetta explains. "In today's environment, sustainability and cost considerations must also be examined. It is possible to find effective solutions to the shortage of sunflower oil, but this requires sound scientific knowledge combined with an understanding of the entire food ecosystem."
- vitamin E
- fatty acids
- edible oils
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