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Major cereal firm turns to Dow for palm-oil replacement

By Elaine Watson , 01-Jun-2011
Last updated on 01-Jun-2011 at 17:48 GMT

Dow Agrosciences is confident sales volumes of its omega-9 mono-unsaturate-rich oils will triple in the next two-to-three years as manufacturers making everything from breakfast cereal to microwave popcorn try to cut saturated fat.

Dow, which originally targeted foodservice customers with its omega-9 cooking oils, has also had a lot of interest from packaged goods manufacturers keen to trial its new low-sat-fat spray-on oils and bakery shortenings, said David Dzisiak, commercial leader for oils.

Take popcorn, which were it not for the fat, would be a healthy product with lots of fiber. By using our oils, Weaver [Popcorn Company] has been able to cut saturated fat by 60 percent in its microwave popcorn, and we are expecting a number of announcements from other leading companies in the next six-to-eight months.”

There was also a significant opportunity for omega-9 oils in breakfast cereals, in which palm derivatives were widely used to extend the shelf-life of oil-coated fruits, toasted oats or other ingredients susceptible to rancidity or loss of eating quality over time, he said.

“We are working with a very large cereal manufacturer to replace palm-based oils in some products and reduce saturated fat without impacting shelf-life. Launches are expected in the first quarter of 2012.”

High stability, lower saturated fat

Dow's omega-9 oils, made from its patented NEXERA canola and sunflower seeds, have a unique combination of high-oleic omega-9 fatty acids, a light, clean taste and significantly higher oxidative stability vs conventional counterparts, helping firms avoid unwanted preservatives, said Dzisiak.

While techniques such as interesterification - where fatty acids are moved from one triglyceride molecule to another - could change melting points and improve shelf-life without creating trans-fats, this did not change overall fatty acid ratios, he said.

By contrast, Dow had used plant breeding to alter fatty acid ratios of oilseeds such that its omega-9 sunflower oil contained 86 percent mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), 5 percent poly-unsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), 8 percent saturates and zero trans fat; compared with 16 percent MUFAs, 72 percent PUFAs, 12 percent saturates (plus some trans-fat) found in conventional sunflower oil.

By blending its omega-9 oils with small quantities of palm oil, Dow had also developed trans-free bakery shortenings that could be used to replace straight palm oil (which contains c.50 percent saturated fat) and help companies slash saturated fat by up to 70% in products such as cookies, said Dzisiak.

“I’d say a third of our future growth will be in bakery shortenings or spray-oils.”

Martek collaboration on plant-sourced DHA

Dow has also been working with Martek (now part of DSM) to develop a cost-effective canola oil containing the coveted long-chain omega-3 fatty acid DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), he said.

While the veggie-DHA project was on track, the partners were still “some years” away from bringing a product to market, he predicted.

Click here to read more about this project.

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