Although Cargill admitted it was “several years away” from introducing commercial products based on the research, it said it had explored three approaches that each offered a “promising avenue toward achieving high performance, lower saturated fat bakery products.”
While manufacturers had eliminated trans fats, health concerns remained around saturated fats, said Cargill. The supplier added that developing and commercializing reduced-saturated-fat shortenings offering a combination of “functionality, cost and label-friendly ingredients” had proven difficult.
Cargill said its researchers had gained a comprehensive understanding of how fat behaves at a molecular level, having analyzed its structure at each stage of the production process, from mixing to shelf, and developed bakery models to predict the performance of each fat-reducing approach.
Presented at the American Oil Chemists' Society annual meeting in Salt Lake City this week, the three new approaches are:
Starch and oil blend
A blend of canola oil and starch was used in place of some of the traditional saturated fat. Particle stabilization technology was used in combination with fat crystal optimization to create a structured fat system that reduced saturated fat levels by 40% without sacrificing key performance characteristics, said Cargill. Additionally, depending on the reduction in saturated fat, resulting bakery shortenings had fewer total fat and calories.
Vegetable waxes and monoglycerides
As fat cools, it forms crystals. Researchers found they could influence the size, shape and speed at which those crystals form by combining vegetable waxes and monoglycerides with canola oil and palm stearin. The resulting fat system lowered saturated fat levels while maintaining fat structures.
This approach used emulsions to dilute saturated fat levels, with Cargill researchers devising a method of encasing water droplets in shells made of monoglycerides and hard fats.
"This research demonstrates a significant leap forward in our understanding of the structure and function of fats throughout the bakery process,” said Cargill principal scientist Serpil Metin.
“With that knowledge, we are working to unlock new low-fat and reduced-saturated-fat solutions that meet the needs of bakeries and help address the health concerns of consumers."