Bunge North American CEO: 'Who would have thought Bunge would be involved in cooking and kitchens a few years ago?'

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Onwards and upwards: North American Oils VP and general manager Rodney Perry (left) with director of innovation for Bunge Oils Dilip Nakhasi
Onwards and upwards: North American Oils VP and general manager Rodney Perry (left) with director of innovation for Bunge Oils Dilip Nakhasi

Related tags: Bunge north america, Fat, Nutrition, Bunge

Milled grains and edible oils specialist Bunge is now walking the talk when it comes to collaboration with the launch of a new state-of-the-art culinary center at its Ingredient Innovation Center in Bradley, Illinois, says its North American boss.

The new center, which includes an industrial kitchen and corporate dining room with extensive video capabilities, is the latest in a string of hi-tech kitchens developed by ingredients giants including Tate & Lyle (Hoffman, IL), BASF (Tarrytown, NYC) and Roquette (Geneva, IL) over the past 12 months.

It used to be all about volume, but today’s it’s a different world

Speaking at the launch on Tuesday, Bunge North America CEO Soren Schroder said the center provided a clear signal to the market that Bunge wants to work more closely with customers on food product development. 

He added: “Who would have thought that Bunge would be involved in cooking and kitchens a few years ago? It used to be all about volume, but today’s it’s a different world. Times have changed and this is a complete turnaround from where we were just three, four, five years ago.

“It’s no longer about volume and calories but about health and functionality. Our scientists and nutritionists and chefs are here to help our customers grow and succeed.

“We have a strong agri-business foundation but over the past few years we have grown more rapidly in foods.”

That’s where chefs come into play

Moore: 'Our aim is to mimic the back of house operations that our customers have and help them develop on-trend menu items'

Equipment at the new kitchen includes a 140 gallon four-pot fryer, a flat-top griddle, a six-burner stove top, a char broiler grill, a combination oven and under the counter ovens, a blast chiller, a virgin oils bar and video conferencing facilities.

Overhead cameras enable chefs to zoom in on the stove and work tops and beam out what they are cooking to customers or colleagues elsewhere in the business in real time, said corporate chef Adam Moore.

“Our aim is tomimic the back of house operations that our customers haveand help them develop on-trend menu items using Bunge’s portfolio of grains, fats and oils.”

Increasingly, Bunge’s customers are employing in-house development chefs to work alongside their food scientists and technical applications experts, while Bunge’s new kitchen proved it was also walking the talk when it came to bringing culinology into the business, he said.

“Sometimes food scientists can get pigeonholed because they are thinking about cost and performance and stability and they can forget about flavor, and what really makes food important to people.

“That’s where chefs come into play,”

An exciting time to be working in fats and oils

So what is Bunge working on in the maze of labs at the expanded ingredient innovation center?  

That’s top secret, says director of innovation for Bunge Oils Dilip Nakhasi, but it should come as no surprise that developing products with even less saturated fat is high on his priority list.

The furor over trans fats that hit the headlines around a decade ago kick-started a wave of innovation in fats and oils research as firms sought to eliminate/reduce trans fats and lower saturates without compromising taste or performance, said Nakhasi.

“It’s been a pretty exciting time to work in fats and oils and what is really exciting is seeing the way plant lipid science and fats and oils science is coming together.”

Significant breakthrough in saturated fat reduction in shortenings

Bunge, which has been at the cutting edge of developments in saturated fat reduction, made a major breakthrough recently with the launch of high oleic, zero trans-fat bakery shortenings (#172 and #358) under its UltraBlends brand containing less than 19% saturated fat (that’s 40% less than standard reduced trans-fat shortenings and 60% less than traditional shortenings), he says.

The products were developed using ‘saturate sparing’ technology, which utilizes cellulose fibers and ‘triglyceride mismatch’ technology, he explained.

“This technology is based on a hard stock blend ​[of soy and palm], which when combined with ​[cellulose] fiber, enables the shortening system to trap and bind large amounts of liquid ​[canola] oil, while contributing structure. It creates a cage that traps liquid oil.

“We launched the products at IFT last month and we’ve had great feedback. We can actually get down to about 15% saturates, but that would require modifications to formulations, whereas at 19% you can just drop it in as a replacement for your current shortening.”   

Structured lipids for cholesterol reduction and weight management

Overhead cameras in the new culinary kitchen enable chefs to zoom in on the stoves and work tops and beam out what they are cooking to customers in real time

More food manufacturers are also experimenting with Delta SL, a novel structured lipid developed by Nakhasi and R&D director Roger Daniels, who are named on a new US patent​ covering the technology awarded on July 17, he revealed.

The ingredient, which is currently used in Abbott Nutrition’s ‘Vital’ range for people with impaired GI function, can be used in everything from milkshakes to muffins, said Nakhasi, who says Bunge is now talking to some big names in the food and nutrition industry about incorporating it into new products.

A randomized triacylglycerol blend of high-oleic canola oil and medium-chain triglycerides with added phytosterol esters, Delta SL is metabolized by the body more rapidly than traditional vegetable oils and inhibits our ability to absorb cholesterol, said Nakhasi.

“If you take a phytosterol supplement on its own you can achieve 10-15% reductions in LDL (‘bad’ cholesterol). With Delta SL human clinical trials show you can cut LDL by 21% with no change in HDL (‘good’ cholesterol). It also has an effect on satiety.”

High oleic soybean oil

Bunge is also working closely with Monsanto and DuPont, which have developed high oleic soybeans capable of producing zero-trans frying oils with less saturated fat, exceptional stability and cleaner labels (no TBHQ), said vice president and general manager, North American Oils, Rodney Perry.

“We will work with both companies. We could use 100% of one or 100% of the other or we can blend them. Customers will decide which high oleic soybean oil works best for them.”

Click here​ to see our picture gallery of the Bunge Ingredient Innovation Center (BiiC). 


Related topics: Bread, Snacks, Markets, Health

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