The Bunge-DuPont Biotech Alliance was established in 2003, when the two companies set up joint venture Solae to supply soy ingredients to the food industry.
The success of the venture prompted the firms to expand their soybean supply into other areas, including biodiesel and lubricants, but for the time being, food remains their primary focus, they said this week.
"At this point, the overwhelming amount of our efforts are dedicated to the food industry," said Jerry Harrington, sales and marketing PR manager for DuPont subsidiary Pioneer Hi-Bred International.
Harrington was unable to specify further, but added that "we intend to expand our efforts dedicated to supplying the food industry with such products as low linolenic and high oleic soyoil into the future."
In the growing season of 2005, the Bunge- DuPont alliance provided the equivalent of 35,000 acres of low-linolenic soybean oil to the food industry. In 2006 this went up to 200,000. And by next year, the companies expect to "more than double" last year's figures. "At least."
Low-linolenic soybean oil has gained popularity in recent years on the back of the food industry's efforts to slash trans fats from its products.
Most soybeans contain high levels of linolenic acid, which reduces the shelf life and stability of products made from soyoil. To overcome this problem, soyoil is often partially hydrogenated to reduce linolenic acid levels. But this, in turn, produces artery-clogging trans fatty acids. Another solution is to tackle the issue in the bean, which is what firms such as Bunge, DuPont, Monsanto and Cargill have done.
Bunge and DuPont also have high-oleic and high-stearic beans in development, due to become available around 2008 and 2010-11 respectively.
The companies claim that their high oleic/high stearic oil will offer food manufacturers a low trans, high solids baking ingredient for use in packaged foods requiring an extended shelf life such as cookies, crackers and breakfast cereals. High oleic oil is also designed to provide a low trans product with improved frying performance for food service and food processors.
As a result of Bunge and DuPont's recently announced expansion into non-food applications, the firms have decided to change the name of their family of soy products. Until now known under the name of Nutium, which suited products intended for use in the food industry due to the connotations of 'nutritious', the line is now due to be called Treus.
It will contain the three major soyoils from Pioneer: low linolenic, high oleic and high oleic/high stearic.
Today, soybean oil - together with palm oil - accounts for over half of all oil consumed in the world. A recent report from analysts Business Communications Company suggests that US production of major crude vegetable oils is slated to reach 8.6 million metric tons in 2008, with soybean oil accounting for nearly 87 per cent of the major vegetable oil production at 7.4 million metric tons.