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Reformulating to counter the edible oil crisis

13 June 2022

According to Sagentia Innovation a systematic, science-led approach is needed to overcome complex processing challenges when reformulating foods in response to the current sunflower oil shortage. 

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It says that the unique functional and nutritional properties of sunflower oil mean that switching to a suitable alternative is not always straightforward.
Sunflower oil is mainly composed of polyunsaturated linoleic acid and monounsaturated oleic acid. Sunflower oil also has a neutral flavour profile, high vitamin E content and a high smoke point. These properties, along with its relatively low cost and the role it plays in attributes such as shelf-life, underpin its widespread use as a food ingredient.
Sagentia Innovation has published guidance on how food manufacturers can tackle this reformulation challenge and avoid market disruption. It includes top-line information on the smoke point, health and flavour characteristics of 20 sunflower oil alternatives. According to Maria Spinetta, food and beverage sector manager at Sagentia Innovation, these three characteristics should be assessed upfront when considering replacement oils. She said: “Understanding the scientific properties of sunflower oil, and how it functions within food matrices, is essential. When looking at alternatives, you need to consider how they will affect the individual product. For example, in baked goods oils impact sensory qualities such as texture and mouthfeel whereas in packaged snacks they play a greater role in shelf-life, stability and flavour. The smoke point is especially important in products with high processing temperatures, as using the wrong type of oil may result in rancidity and loss of nutritional value. Allergenicity is another critical consideration.”
As well as potentially changing the nutritional and sensory qualities of food products, switching to a different oil has supply chain repercussions. This can impact unit economics and sustainability credentials. In some situations, manufacturers may need to explore different ingredients, such as hydrocolloids, or novel processing technologies which replace the need for baking or frying. 
“Reformulating foods always raises a host of technical considerations related to processing, sensory properties and nutritional value,” continued Spinetta. “In today’s environment, sustainability and cost implications also need to be scrutinised. It is possible to find effective solutions to the sunflower oil shortage, but it does require scientific expertise combined with an understanding of the wider food sector ecosystem.”
Sagentia Innovation’s guidance on overcoming the edible oil crisis is available at:

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