Cargill launches palm oil shortening line for baked goods


Dive Brief:

  • Cargill introduced a palm oil shortening line for the bakery industry called PalmAgility. The company said the palm oil helps reduce brittleness across a broader range of temperatures and can be easily stored without losing workability or texture.
  • PalmAgility has a smoother and creamier texture than regular palm oil shortenings, and therefore means faster mixing times and better incorporation of ingredients, the company said. Cargill tested the shortening in pies, donuts, cookies and crème fillings at Cargill’s state-of-the-art Food Innovation Center in Minneapolis.
  • “Bakery customers face a variety of challenges with standard palm shortenings from transportation to storage to performance. PalmAgility’s virtue is that it is a single solution that helps address these multiple bakery performance needs,” John Satumba, director of R&D for Cargill’s North America global edible oils business, said in a release.

Dive Insight:

Cargill developed this line of palm oil shortening to solve problems with transportation, storage and performance that the bakery industry often encounters with other palm-based alternatives. The company also wanted to introduce customized solutions that would respond to specific challenges in bakery applications, such as temperature tolerance and melting point.

PalmAgility will initially be available as an all-purpose product for cookies and pies, a special formulation for crème fillings for sandwich cookies and in two products designed for donut frying, the company said. The line joins an extensive oil and shortening portfolio Cargill already offers, which means there could already be manufacturers willing to try this new line.

Palm oil shortening has emerged as a common replacement product since the Food and Drug Administration decided in 2015 partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) were no longer generally recognized as safe and began phasing them out. FDA set a deadline of June 18, 2019, for food companies to reformulate ingredients and Jan. 1, 2021, to use up their inventory.

The demand for palm oil has increased in recent years. According to Fact.MR, the market is expected to increase at a compound annual growth rate of 3.9% from 2017 to 2022. Its use in the global food and beverage sector is projected to generate more than $33 billion by the end of 2022.

Palm oil shortening is used in a wide variety of baked goods and other food products even though it’s relatively high in saturated fat. Other shortening products that have emerged to replace PHOs include those made with soybean oil, which has no hydrogenated fats and low saturated fat, all-purpose margarine with a lower calorie count, and high-oleic soybean oils. According to Food Ingredients First, 55% of palm oil-free food and beverage product launches in 2017 were in the bakery sector.

Palm oil use is not without controversy though. The product has gained global attention for the negative environmental impacts from its production and human rights abuses on some plantations. Consumers have increasingly rejected palm oil for those reasons, so Cargill could have some trouble selling this latest line. But it does continue to be a popular ingredient for food makers since it’s much cheaper than other oils and has a long shelf life. It can also be organically and sustainably produced if manufacturers want to enhance their image among consumers.  

Cargill is well aware of these issues since the company has dealt with them for years. According to “grievance logs” the company posts, there have been various complaints filed against its direct and indirect palm oil suppliers for supposed labor and deforestation violations. Besides chronicling the specific issue, Cargill also notes what action has been taken by the company and the status of the complaint.

Satumba​ told Food Ingredients First that the company committed in 2014 to “sustainable, deforestation-free, socially responsible palm oil” and has joined The Forest Trust, a non-profit organization that helps companies deliver products responsibly. In the interests of competitive positioning, Cargill may want to advertise any such marketing advantages applicable to the PalmAgility line to make sure its palm oil shortening customers are aware of them as well.

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