By David Feder, RDN // May 9, 2018

Oil Portrait: Formulators are taking artful new approaches to ingredient fats and oils

The pendulum has swung the other way, and fats and oils are not only no longer under a hot light, they’re in the limelight. Manufacturers have been taking advantage of the cachet of healthful oils, especially olive oil, for a while.

Recent years saw this approach stimulate a shift toward incorporating such oils unhesitatingly into formulations. But now there is a growing trend to market products with such favored fats front and center and positioned as a raison d’être for purchase by the consumer.

This trend began with olive oil, a key component of the Mediterranean Diet codified by Oldways Preservation Trust in the 1980s. But there it more or less stalled. This was, in part, due to a combination of the premium costs of specialty oils and their narrower versatility.

For example, the primary health attribute of these oils is a high level of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA). But the double-bond chemical structure that designates them also makes them more volatile, more susceptible to oxidation, and thus lowers their smoke point. Such oils became more favored in cold formulations (such as dressings and condiments) than in fried or baked foods.

Then, oil technologists began pulling out the stops on developing technology to bring healthier attributes to the oils used in high-heat batch production, and the genie is now out of the cruet. Creating high-MUFA soy and canola oils that also boast stellar performance in fryers and industrial ovens has resulted in an oil boom market for new plant oils and even more new twists on some “old standby” oils.