A North Carolina-based soybean processor has tapped into the lucrative trans-fat free oil market through a patent process that also retains the nutritional benefits of soy.
This method, which was developed over three years by a consortium of chemists and industry experts, is claimed to produce oils that contain no trans-fats and retain important vitamins.
"There are two things that make the Whole Harvest product line unique," Carolina Soy Products advisor Fred Schulte told FoodNavigator-USA.com.
"The patented expeller press process refines oil with no harsh chemicals - for example there is no hexane used. As a result the oil keeps its natural properties such as Omega-3s and vitamin E."
Hexane is a flammable solvent typically used in the processing of most commercial cooking oils. Hexane gases are released into the atmosphere as a by-product of the traditional methods for manufacturing cooking oil.
"The Whole Harvest line of cooking oils offers a unique alternative to the standard cooking oils used throughout the restaurant and food preparation industries," said Bob Dawson, chief operating officer of Carolina Soy Products. "We're very proud that the process is also environmentally safe."
The second point of course is that because the oil is non-hydrogenated, it contains no trans fats. Trans-fats have been negatively linked to raising blood cholesterol levels and promoting heart disease, and food companies have been looking for ways of reducing trans-fat content without affecting taste.
According to ACNeilson, US sales of products already labeled 'no trans fat' increased 12 percent to $6.4 billion for the 52 weeks ended October 2, 2004, compared with the previous 52-week period.
The oil market is dominated by big ingredients players such as Cargill, and Carolina Soy Products has had to struggle to make an impact on the scene. "There are lots of people competing," said Schulte. "It is tough, as there is such a significant amount of cooking oil used. We're dealing with big competition."
Nonetheless, the company believes that it is beginning to be noticed. It holds some patents concerning its oil extraction process, and believes it has a unique selling point.
"There's not that many expeller processing firms out there taking soybean oil on to the refining process," said Schulte. "People use this process to produce meal for animal feed, but they have not gone to the expense of building a refinery."
The pressure is certainly on food makers since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a final ruling requiring food manufacturers to list trans fatty acids on the Nutrition Facts panel of conventional foods and some dietary supplements.
Beginning 1 January 2006, the FDA will require all food companies to label the amount of trans-fat in their products allowing consumers to have additional information to make healthier food choices that could lower their intake of trans fat as part of a heart-healthy diet.