Q. What are saturated fats?
A. The scientific definition of saturated fat is having every carbon bound to as many hydrogens as possible, thus the molecule is absent of double bonds. Saturated fat and saturated fatty acids may be used interchangeably. Often saturated fat is used when generalizing common characteristics of saturated fatty acids. The length of the carbon chain differentiates saturated fatty acids. The saturated fatty acids commonly found in a typical American diet are lauric acid, myristic acid, palmitic acid, and stearic acid. As a rule of thumb, the greater the saturated fat in a food item, the more solid it will be at room temperature. The reverse is also true, the greater the unsaturated fat in a food item, the more liquid it will be at room temperature. It is important to mention that there are healthy and unhealthy saturated fatty acids. Majority of the saturated fatty acids contained in palm oil have been scientifically and medically proven through numerous clinical trials to have a lowering or neutral affect on cholesterol.
Q. Will palm oil products be as shelf life stable (flavor and structural) in finished bakery products as the partially hydrogenated oils they replace?
A. With the efficient supply chain and optimal processing of palm oil based shortening and margarines, palm oil products today are produced to match the application performance of high trans shortenings. Whether it be a cookie, pie, biscuit, pastry, cake or frying application you are trying to replace palm will be a suitable and consistent match for you.
Q. I want to use a soybean-based solution, why should I consider using palm instead?
A. Soybean oil contains too little saturated fat to be functional as shortening. It must be partially hydrogenated or combined with fully hydrogenated oils to create the correct functionality. Both approaches above use hydrogenation as a process that must be labeled and leads to the formation of trans fatty acids. Today, the soybean and canola industry has come out with a process called interesterification which results in a trans free product, however its cost is high due to its technology and expensive process.
Q. What is hydrogenation?
A. Hydrogenation of fats is the addition of hydrogen to the double bonds in the fatty acid chains. This process is very important in the food industry. Two major objectives are accomplished through hydrogenation of fats, (1) the allowance of the conversion of a liquid oil to a semisolid fat that is more suitable for specific food applications such as margarines and shortenings, and (2) the improvement of oxidative stability of the oil. A major disadvantage of the hydrogenation process is the formation of trans fats
Q. Don’t consumers have a negative perception towards palm oil?
A. Our consumer research suggests that palm oil as an ingredient has relatively little impact on consumers decision to purchase a food product for the first time. Much more attention is given to the level of fat, saturated fat and the presence of partially hydrogenated fat (trans fatty acids). Although in the 90’s palm had a negative reputation in the industry, today palm oil is used in about 50% of all packaged food products in supermarkets worldwide.