Snack and food manufacturers have moved away from genetically modified oils, replacing them with a variety of non-GMO certified oils. But the high oleic value and positive label attributes of sunflower oil make it a preferred choice among many, claimed Tony Intal, sales representative of Oilseeds International.
“You’ll see the saturation with the sunflower oil market coming. Maybe not in the next couple of years but I think, I would hope, in the next five,” Intal told BakeryandSnacks.com at Snaxpo 2014 in Dallas, Texas earlier this month.
“The sunflower oil market is growing; it’s growing exponentially.”
He said that between sunflower and safflower oil – two oils the company produced – sunflower certainly had more traction and potential.
Euromonitor: ‘Exponential’ is probably a little optimistic
Sunflower oil production dropped slightly last year compared to 2012 in the US and globally. USDA data showed the US was forecast to harvest 490,000 hectares of sunflower oil for 2013/14, producing 747,000 metric tons - down on 2012/13.
UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) statistics suggested that the global production of sunflower oil was around 12.8bn metric tons in 2013, down from 12.9bn in 2012.
While Euromonitor International data showed that use of vegetable oils in the food industry had seen growth, Lauren Bandy, ingredients analyst at Euromonitor, said that ‘exponential growth’ was probably a “little bit optimistic”.
“There are so many types of oils globally… Obviously there’s Asia and China in particular driving the packaged food and snack market, but our data certainly isn’t showing anything exponential in terms of growth for vegetable oils,” she said.
However, Bandy agreed that sunflower oil was probably one of the most-widely used oils in the snack and food industry. “Particularly for frying snacks, we’ve seen a lot of companies like Lay’s switch to sunflower, although not recently. That has been over the past five to ten years,” she said.
Many of these switches had been made for health reasons and the desire to move away from trans fats, she said.
Non-GMO trend and ‘canola factor’
Intal said manufacturers also wanted to shift away from GMO oils and steer clear of canola – an oil viewed negatively among many consumers in the US.
“Even though there is non-GMO canola oil, they still want nothing that can have that ‘canola effect’ or ‘soybean effect’…When it comes to concerns over canola oil, most of it is just aesthetics, labeling and marketing,” he said.
Manufacturers, he said, wanted labels that would appeal to consumers but also oils that boasted high oleic (monounsaturated) acid values.
“Sunflower oil is more of a clean label oil for a lot of these food and snack manufacturers and oleic levels is actually what a lot of them want – they want the highest oleic value. Those are the two big factors they’re looking for,” he said.
Intal said more and more specialty chip manufacturers would convert to high oleic oils, like sunflower oil.
Dow AgroScience non-GMO omega-9 canola oils
Dow AgroSciences told our sister site FoodNavigator-USA that sales of its omega-9 canola oils had surged 250% since 2011.
The oils are available as non-GMO in markets that require that oils; developed using conventional, non-GMO, plant breeding techniques. The company said these have proved popular with food companies seeking healthier alternatives to oils high in trans- and saturated fatty acids, its omega-9 oils market manager Mary LaGuardia said.
“…For markets that are sensitive to the GMO issue, omega-9 oils are fitting in very easily,” she said. She added that the clean light flavor and high monounsaturated oleic acid value also held appeal.