Oil and fat manufacturer AarhusKarlsham (AAK) is introducing a number of extensions to its EsSence line of bakery shortenings, designed to respond to the trans-free requirements of niche applications in the category.
Launched this week at the IFT event in Chicago, the three new products carry the same marketing hinge as the rest of the EsSence line: trans fat free, non-hydrogenated and low in saturated fat.
According to the company, the new palm-oil based products allow manufacturers of baked goods to respond to current nutritional requirements of no trans fats and low levels of saturated fats without sacrificing functionality, taste or texture.
EsSence EX36 margarine is designed for use in laminated dough applications, such as puff pastry, croissants and turnovers. Intended exclusively for large manufacturers with automated production systems, the robust fat claims to provide "excellent lift and crumb structure".
EX36 is the first margarine in the EsSence line, and is marketed as allowing manufacturers to achieve identical products to those made with hydrogenated oils. Although its saturated fat levels of 45 to 48 percent appear high, the firm's director of new products and technology Jeff Fine said these must be seen in the context of the much higher category standard.
"The standard for laminated doughs is butter, which is 62 percent saturated fat. Our fats need to adapt to application requirements, and in this case if we made a product with 20 percent saturated fat no one would want it," Fine told FoodNavigator-USA.com.
According to the company, bakery manufacturers who have tested the product have said it is "the best product they have tried" in this application area.
AAK is also using IFT to promote its EsSence 8633 product as a frying oil. Launched several months ago as a shortening, the firm said it is also suitable for use as a "superior" frying oil for products such as snacks and donuts.
Made from a blend of canola oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil, the new ingredient has saturated fat levels that range from 20 to 40 percent. Fry life for the product does not achieve levels equal to those of hydrogenated oils, but according to AAK this is a "trade-off" that manufacturers are willing to accept when switching to non-trans alternatives.
In terms of taste and texture of finished goods, the firm says initial feedback has revealed an "invisible" switch to the new oil.
The third new introduction, EsSence 8730 claims to be a "cost-effective", non-lauric version of the line's original shortening products. These original products launched two years ago - EsSence 8623 and EsSence 8643 - are made with blends containing palm kernel oil fractions.
In palm kernel oil, lauric acid makes up about 48 percent of the oil. And because fats that are high in lauric acid can ultimately bring up saturated fat levels, manufacturers often want to steer clear of the ingredient.
According to AAK, its oil blends that contain palm kernel are not necessarily high in saturated fats because the firm chooses "highly functional fractions used in low amounts", so the functionality is achieved but the levels of saturated fats are kept down.
While the firm maintains it is constantly trying to "educate" industry and consumers about palm kernel oil, it nevertheless responded to customer demand for palm kernel-free oil with the new 8730 product. This also claims to be more "cost effective" due to less use of costly raw materials, although the firm would not reveal specific levels of cost savings.
EsSence 8730 is made from a blend of canola and palm oil (which is non-lauric) and claims to have saturated fat levels of 30 percent.
With all products in AAK's EsSence line being palm-oil based, the firm says it is not concerned about the negative publicity campaign that has surrounded the oil in the past.
While already used extensively in Europe as manufacturers move to replace trans fatty acids in their food formulations, palm oil in the US only recently started to recover from a strongly negative campaign started over 20 years ago and linking the oil to heart disease.
But AAK says the negative campaigns were "purely political and emotional issues" that the firm wishes to side-step.
"Our mandate is to bring to manufacturers ingredients that are functionally superior and meet the requirements that they set. We don't inject ourselves into political discussions, we just basically want to respond to food manufacturers' wants and needs," said the firm's sales and marketing director Ed Wilson.
Consumers - and therefore manufacturers - are warming to palm oil, he said, and this is reflected in the increased imports of the oil brought into the country, as well as in the "quite dramatic" rise in AAK's own sales: according to Wilson, the firm has seen a 15 percent increase in sales of palm-based products from last year.
Palm oil, a naturally occurring saturated fat, primarily appeals to the industry due to its functionality, its long shelf-life without the need for chemical processing, and its competitive cost.