How to Choose the Right Oil for Your Product Formulations

John Sandbakken, Executive Director of the National Sunflower Association, addresses questions from food manufacturers on what to consider when choosing an oil for product formulations.

By John Sandbakken, Executive Director, National Sunflower Association

As the demand for cleaner labels continues to grow, many food manufacturers are looking more closely at the ingredients in their products and the type of fat or oil requires important consideration

Q. Have you considered switching to a non-GMO oil?

A. With greater consumer interest in non-GMO ingredients, and with 89 percent of Americans indicating that they would like some form of GMO-labeling on their food¹, a non-GMO oil, such as sunflower oil, will contribute to a cleaner product label and could give your products a competitive advantage.

Q. Does your product need a fat or an oil that will give it a longer shelf life?

A. Some fats and oils have a high Omega 3/linolenic fatty acid content. While these fatty acids could potentially add health benefits to a product, they are not very stable, and as a result they limit a product’s shelf life.   If you are interested in stretching the shelf life of a bakery product, a sauce or a snack food product, research has shown that choosing an oil with a high oleic fatty acid content, such as sunflower oil, will provide longer shelf life.

Q. Are you looking for a trans fat free oil to replace PHOs?

A. Removing PHOs from your product may require a new combination of fats and oils. Sun oil could be a substitute for the PHO that you are currently using and it can also be blended with other fats and oils so your product’s taste and texture is not compromised.

Q. Is it important to have an oil with a neutral taste?

A. Some fats and oils have a flavor profile that might conflict or overpower the flavors in your product. Sun oil has a neutral taste allowing the true flavors in foods to come through.

Q. Do you need a fat or oil that has a high heat point and a long fry life?

A. Fatty acid composition of oil has an impact on frying stability and also affects the length of time oil will last in a fryer. Several fry-life studies show that sunflower oil has a very high smoke point and a longer fry life than many other oils. Its composition makes it ideal for deep-fried or par-fried foods.  

Q. Would you like to use an oil that offers your customers health benefits?

A. Most plant-based oils offer a variety of health benefits and choosing a trans fat free oil has many proven benefits. Sunflower oil is an excellent source of Vitamin E, a nutrient that contributes to positive heart health. Sun oil can also be used as a partial substitute for saturated fat in some food formulations including crackers, cookies, sausages and dairy products.  The end result is often a healthier product with the same taste and texture.

Q. Are you interested in choosing an oil that will please your customers?

A. Americans have a very positive perception of sunflower oil.  In fact, a 2015 study conducted by the International Food Information Council Foundation¹ found that 56 percent of Americans rated sunflower oil as either “extremely healthful” or “somewhat healthful,” which is up from 49 percent in 2009.

Editor’s Note: This Q&A was sponsored by the National Sunflower Association

¹The IFIC Food & Health Survey was conducted online by Greenwald & Associates of Washington, D.C.,  from March 13 to March 26, 2015, with 1,007 Americans ages 18-80, and is weighted to represent the demographics of the United States.
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