Linked to raised blood cholesterol levels and heart disease in animal fats, trans fats have come under fire from consumer organisations pushing the food industry to cut the content. As the pressure persists, manufacturers will be forced by the market to reformulate.
"Last year we identified that trans fatty acids were probably going to be an issue. Denmark was first, but it's only a matter of time before the UK manufacturers start to absorb trans fat free ingredients into their finished food products," Colin Hunter, managing director of the Yorkshire-based Food Design tells Foodnavigator.com.
Last year Denmark became the first country in the world to introduce restrictions on the use of industrially produced trans fatty acids. Oils and fat are now forbidden on the Danish market if they contain trans fatty acids exceeding two per cent.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruled in 2003 that by 2006 all manufacturers will have to clearly label the levels of these fats in their foods.
While there are no such labelling rules in the European Union, Denmark is pushing Brussels to bring in low common low EU limit values for trans fatty acid. A move that would send demand for replacements soaring. But in the run up to possible change, the market demand is also set to steadily increase.
Trans fats are created by a chemical process called hydrogenation in the production process for longer shelf life. The growing list of manufacturers opting to remove trans fatty acids includes Swiss company Nestle, US fast food giant McDonalds and Frito-Lay North America, a division of PepsiCo.
Hunter confirms that unlike the hydrogentated palm kernel oil, the HPKO alternative - developed from vegetable oil - has very low fatty acids and trans fatty acids.
The Harrogate company that targets the confectionery segment of the food market currently sells over 900 tonnes fudge, toffee and sauce ingredients in the UK and abroad annually and will be looking to up this figure through the new replacement fat.
Slipping into the 'added-value' status the HPKO alternative from the UK firm is in fact more expensive than Food Design's standard equivalent."This [the HPKO alternative] is an additional facility as far as our custmers are concerned. There is a cost implication there that many manufacturers do not want to have, but the market could drive this to a need, " added Hunter.
Suppliers of ingredients to the confectionery industry in the UK have faced a tough 2003 due to soaring raw material prices. Knocked by the poor maize harvests in Europe, the price of glucose rocketed last year. Milk products have also risen dramatically over the past 12 months, up 21 per cent on the previous year. Purchases of sweet/condensed milk in the UK have shot up by more than £300 a tonne, to around £1100 a tonne today.