Corn, canola and soy. It may seem like the “big three” of oils are still dominating both packaged and commercially prepared foods, but think again. Newer fats and oils are seeing serious growth on the market due to consumers’ increasingly health-conscious eating habits.
The past few years have seen major ups and downs for edible oils. Palm oil, for example, enjoyed a tremendous boom in popularity—only to be met with regulation in Europe due to public pressure over environmental concerns. Meanwhile, health-minded consumers are pouring on the coconut oil and starting to experiment with more niche oils, like avocado.
As consumers look at ingredients with greater scrutiny, manufacturers and operators will have to rethink the oils they use to serve up meals and snacks.
Oils to Watch
Grapeseed: With a high smoke point (420 degrees) and a strong supply, grapeseed oil is now competitive with olive oil.
Sunflower: Sunflower oil is poised to make a major comeback this year, boasting a non-GMO label and strong domestic production.
Chia seed: With chia seeds firmly established in the “superfood” category, it’s not surprising that consumers are enthusiastic about the antioxidant-rich oil derived from them. Foodservice has reasons to celebrate, too: chia seed oil has a high smoke point, plus naturally occurring compounds that fight randicity.
These oils may not yet be household names, but they’re starting to slip their way into consumers’ cabinets.
Rice bran: Rice bran oil—made from the bran and germ that exist between the white rice grain and the rice husk—is gaining popularity for its high smoke point (450 degrees) and healthy balance of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. It’s now being used by the popular fast-casual Mexican chain Chipotle after it vowed to ditch GMOs.
Pumpkinseed: While this oil isn’t ideal for cooking, it is gaining popularity in dressings and other applications. Even more obscure seed oils, such as quinoa, watermelon, and tea seed, are also joining the specialty oil market.
Health concerns are already starting to resonate in the conventional edible oil market. In response to consumer concerns about saturated fat, agribusiness giant Cargill released a new high-oleic hybrid canola oil in December of 2017. Launched after a decade’s worth of research and development, the company claims the product has a strong frying performance, fresh taste and long shelf life despite the reduction.
While we’ll undoubtedly see more new oils enter the market as the result of innovation, some old standbys don’t need to be tampered with. Butter is expected to enjoy a resurgence in the next year and beyond as Americans lean towards healthy indulgence and “whole foods.”
Source: Prepared Foods, Dec. 2017, “Oil’s Well: Health and ecological responsiblity are real trends in fats and oils.”