The company has three modifications of the bean in the pipeline, the first of which, Vistive mid-oleic, is due to be developed by 2009, said Monsanto's vice president for commercial acceptance Jerry Steiner at a farm conference on Monday.
Monsanto's Vistive low-linolenic soybeans, which claim to reduce or eliminate trans fatty acids in soybean oil, were launched last year, after ten years in development. According to the company, the beans, which contain less than 3 per cent linolenic acid, compared to 8 per cent for traditional soybeans, have enjoyed significant success on the back of an industry move to slash the trans fat content of foods.
The new mid-oleic bean is expected to "expand the applications in which food companies are now using Vistive low-linolenic by offering additional stability and shelf life," Monsanto's Christopher Horner told FoodNavigator-USA.com.
Monsanto also plans to develop a Vistive low saturates bean, which it claims will provide "a heart-healthy combination of lower saturated fats, lower trans fats and improve stability." According to Steiner, this bean will be ready by around 2012-2013.
The company said the oils derived from these beans can be used in a variety of snacking and baking applications where frying is currently used, as well as in formulated foods in which liquid oils are typically used.
Trans fatty acids (TFAs) are formed when liquid vegetable oils go through a chemical process called hydrogenation. Common in a range of food products - biscuits, chips, doughnuts, crackers - the hydrogenated vegetable fat is used by food processors because it is solid at room temperature and has a longer shelf life.
But research suggests that trans fats raise LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, causing the arteries to become more rigid and clogged. An increase in LDL cholesterol levels can lead to heart disease.
As a result, the food industry is gradually slicing out their use as more consumers look for alternative products. As from 1 January 2006, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will require all food companies in the US to label the amount of trans-fat in their products.
According to ACNeilson, US sales of products already labeled 'no trans fat' increased 12 percent to $6.4 billion for the 52 weeks ended October 2, 2004, compared with the previous 52-week period.
Because Vistive soybeans have low linolenic acid levels, they reduce the need for partial hydrogenation, helping food companies reduce the presence of trans fatty acids (trans fats) in their products.
According to Monsanto, Vistive mid-oleic beans and Vistive low saturates beans "have the potential of further reducing the need to partially hydrogenate oils or utilize more expensive process technologies such as fractionation and interesterification to provide desired shelf life."
"These oils would not only reduce the amount of trans fatty acids in the diet, but also reduce the amount of saturated fat," it added.
Vistive Omega-3 is another modification in the pipeline, due to become available around 2011-2012. According to the company, the "enhanced oils represent an environmentally sustainable, economical source of Omega-3s, providing consumers with new options for omega-rich foods."
According to Monsanto, its low-linolenic and mid-oleic beans were developed through conventional breeding methods, though cheaper GM versions of the low-linolenic bean are also available on demand.
The low saturates and Omega-3 beans are being developed through biotechnology.
Sales growth for the vistive soybean oil is not only tied to the trans fat alternatives, but also to health concerns that are currently driving the market for soybean oil as ongoing research suggests soy not only lowers cholesterol, but can also have a preventative effect on breast cancer and other hormone-related cancers. Both the UK and the US have approved a health claim for soy.
Today, soybean oil - together with palm oil - accounts for over half of all oil consumed in the world. A recent report from analysts Business Communications Company suggests that US production of major crude vegetable oils is slated to reach 8.6 million metric tons in 2008, with soybean oil accounting for nearly 87 per cent of the major vegetable oil production at 7.4 million metric tons.