U.S. Sun Oil in Canada
Editor’s Note: The National Sunflower Association (NSA) continues to work with the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) as a matching-dollar cooperator for purposes of foreign market development. NSA currently operates in five countries with an annual FAS allocation of about $1.5 million. Activities in Mexico, Spain, Turkey and Germany focus on confection sunflower in-shell seeds and kernel. The program in Canada is directed toward sunflower oil.
The following article is the second in a series discussing NSA foreign market development efforts. Canada is the largest export market for U.S. sunflower oil. NSA is working to improve awareness and educate food processors and foodservice personnel about the favorable characteristics of sunflower oil for use as food processing oil. This is being done through educational seminars, information kits, newsletters, mass media and trade shows. Sunflower oil is marketed as a “value solution for frying” in both of these food industries.
This article was written by Chris Gould, vice president at Harbinger Communications in Toronto and the director of the NSA promotions program in Canada.
According to “A Look into the Future of Eating” report by the NPD group, a leading market research organization, the frequency that North Americans snack at home will increase by 19% over the next 10 years. The growth is being driven by consumers eating on-the-go and a growing demand for “better-for-you” snacks and smaller portion sizes.
Members of Generation Y (born 1976 to 1989) are expected to be the primary drivers of growth in the salty snack category with a 44% projected growth rate. As well, shifting demographics and increased knowledge about ingredients have resulted in changing consumer tastes and increased demand for snack food products with zero trans fat, reduced fat and lower sodium.
At Harbinger Communications, the marketing agency for the National Sunflower Association in Canada, we liaise with Canadian food manufacturers about the latest food trends and any product formulation challenges or questions about sunflower oil that they may have. We provide information about U.S. sunflower oil not only to food manufacturers and industry leaders, but also to Canadian oil suppliers, who sell U.S. sunflower oil in Canada.
In order to keep U.S. sunflower oil top of mind and to continue to share new innovations and research, Harbinger creates trade advertisements, distributes quarterly e-newsletters, participates in trade shows, and coordinates webinars. We are also able to share a few of the many success stories of Canadian-based snack food businesses utilizing U.S.-sourced sunflower oil in their popular products.
One of the hottest snack food trends right now is pita chips — a low-fat snack, made with sunflower oil. Several Canadian companies, including private label brands from key Canadian grocery stores, have introduced pita chip products, some of which are also shipped to the United States for sale in various markets.
Crispy Pitas are a delicious new snack that are made by Ozery’s Pita Break, a Canadian company that emerged from a small family owned sandwich shop into a commercial bakery that now ships its products across Canada and into the United States.
Starting with quality ingredients, Crispy Pitas are crafted with care in small batches. Fruits, seeds, herbs and seasonings are added along with sunflower oil to the dough, which is rolled out into pita breads and slowly toasted until golden. They are then thick-cut to create a satisfying crunch and premium taste.
“We use sunflower oil in the preparation of Crispy Pitas, due to its neutral taste, which allows the flavors in the ingredients to come through,” says Alon Ozery, owner of Pita Break. “Sun oil is also non-GMO and has no trans fats, which is important since we are committed to creating wholesome and nutritious products for our customers.”
Crispy Pitas are available in four delicious flavors: Cranberry Pumpkin Seed, Rosemary Garlic, Organic Wheat and Organic Spelt with Flax.
Popcorn is another snack food that is growing in popularity. Researchers at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania recently discovered that popcorn is packed with antioxidants, which prevent damage to cells and may have disease-fighting properties.
To meet Canadians growing demand for popcorn, Kernels Popcorn provides extraordinary quality and taste at its 68 retail locations across the country. Popped in mid-oleic sunflower oil, Kernels popcorn is freshly made every day.
“We like using mid-oleic sunflower oil, since it is stable and can be heated to high temperatures in our poppers,” says Carolyn Macgregor, Kernels’ director of marketing. “We also like the fact that sunflower oil is taste-neutral, so that the true flavor of the popcorn and our seasonings comes through.”
Whether you prefer spicy or sweet, there is a wide range of sensational flavors to choose from including: Jalapeno Jack, Creamy Caramel, Whalin’ White Cheese, Asiago & Cracked Pepper and a variety of fruit flavors. Stores can also customize flavor combinations, making this product not only a joy to eat but also a fun gift for both personal and corporate giving.
With more and more Canadians looking for gluten-free and low-gluten products and a growing interest in ethnic foods, there has also been an emergence in snack food products made from non-traditional ingredients, such as beans and lentils and more diverse flavors for consumers to choose from.
A large line of private label products known as President’s Choice products are sold at Loblaw Company stores and their affiliate chains across the country. Within the selection, there is a wide variety of health-conscious products, including President’s Choice Blue Menu Baked Lentil Crisps – Spiced Hummus.
“This product is oven-baked for exceptional crispness,” says Jasna Turulja, product developer for Loblaw Brands Limited. “These crisps have more fiber than many other snacks; and since they are made from lentil and bean flour, they are an alternative to other snack choices that are currently available. To ensure the flavor from the spiced hummus will come through, we use high-oleic sun oil and/or safflower and/or canola.”
Some studies indicate that with consumers “always-on” lifestyles and the desire to eat on-the-go and at all times of the day, snacking will continue to grow and Canadian consumers will eat smaller portions more frequently throughout the day.
As evidenced by these success stories, demand for U.S. sunflower oil, with all of its positive health and functional attributes, will continue to be of interest to Canadian food manufacturers.
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