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Another Type of Sun Oil on Horizon

Monday, February 1, 2010
filed under: Utilization/Trade

Are you ready for another type of sunflower that will need to be identity preserved?

According to Advanta, U.S. farmers may have another alternative to NuSun®, high-oleic, hullers and an assortment of confection seed sizes.

Researchers at the National Council of Scientific Research of Spain, together with Advanta Argentina, have been developing sunflower seed with another unique fatty acid profile. The oil from this patented seed is called Nutrisun™. Its fatty acid profile is composed mostly of stearic and oleic types.

The development has been ongoing for 14 years and is now ready for commercialization. Traditional breeding was used in Nutrisun’s development; therefore the seed and the oil are non-GMO products.

Representatives from Advanta Semillas in Argentina report that commercial production has started in Spain and Argentina. Plans are to introduce commercial production of Nutrisun in the United States in the 2010 cropping season. Hybrids have already been in U.S. trials for several years.

As with other specialty oils, production of Nutrisun will be contracted and identity preserved throughout the market system. Alberto Leon, general manager of Advanta’s Nutrisun Business Unit, indicates that as in any other novel hybrid development, there is both yield and oil “drag” in the Nutrisun hybrids at the present time. For that reason, he indicates that price premiums will make up for the yield and oil loss.

As of this writing, there is no further information available as to the planned 2010 U.S. acreage level or in what geography(ies) it might be centered.

Stearic acid is a saturated fatty acid. So why would Advanta want to have a sunflower oil that is higher in saturates when everyone is trying to lower consumption of saturated fatty acids?

The answer is two-fold, according Lucas Pan, Advanta fats & oils leader and sales representative. First, stearic acid is considered to be more heart healthy than other saturated fatty acids; and, second, stearic acid combined with oleic acid provides very high stability in food markets that need a “solid oil.”

Potential applications for Nutrisun would be in foods that require texture, firmness and shelf life. Examples could include margarines, shortenings, the baking industry, deep-fried pastries, and confectionery applications like chocolate and pastry fillings.

Historically animal fat was the product of choice for the production of these products. As animal fat became identified with human health concerns, it was replaced with partially or fully hydrogenated vegetable oils — mainly soybean oil.

In the late 1990s, trans fatty acids, a byproduct of the hydrogenation process, were also identified as having human health concerns. Efforts continue to eliminate partially hydrogenated oils (trans fatty acids) from the diet.

Meanwhile, this has left a huge vacuum for those food sectors that need more than a naturally stable oil like NuSun or high-oleic oils.

The pastry industry is a case in point. They need an oil that is categorized as mostly “solid” at room temperature . . . an oil that provides plasticity. Such oils are usually highly saturated. They provide foods with the texture, firmness and desirable mouth feel as in the “melt in your mouth” sensation.

With the near elimination of trans fats on the label, the food industry has turned to palm oil as a cheap and available replacement. There are real concerns among health advocates that too much palm oil is being used as a substitute for trans fatty acids.

Advanta views Nutrisun as a healthy alternative to highly saturated oils such as coconut, palm and palm kernel, as well as being a replacement for fully or partially hydrogenated oils.

Stearic acid is considered to be “neutral” in terms of serum cholesterol and heart health, according to groups like the American Heart Association and other health related organizations.

A real benefit for food companies is having an alternative oil that can work in those challenging food applications. Having sunflower oil on a food label — as opposed to palm oil — would be a real plus. This is especially the case for those food companies reaching out to consumers who are health sensitive, but still want to eat some of those wonderful pastries. — Larry Kleingartner

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