Palsgaard - Activated solution to PHO legislation

With US legislators phasing out partially hydrogenated oils, manufacturers of cake mixes and industrial cakes need to examine alternatives to these oils. Powdered, activated emulsifiers seem to be the wisest choice. Arne Pedersen, product and application manager at Palsgaard, writes about the development in this market.

For decades, partially hydrogenated vegetable oils have replaced butter, lard, palm oil, coconut oil and other hard fats in many processed foods. Most cakes, biscuits, pie crusts and crackers contain shortening made from this type of oil.

Partial hydrogenation adds hydrogen to vegetable oil, eliminating most of the unstable fatty acids and causing the oil to solidify at room temperature. Shelf life increases and the oil is better able to match the cooking properties of solid shortening.

Health hazard

Unfortunately, partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) are the primary source of trans-fatty acids or trans fats. Studies have shown PHOs can promote the risk of coronary attack by raising blood levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol while reducing high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. In fact, higher risks of disease can already be registered at daily trans-fatty acid intake of just 5-6g. A high intake of saturated fats and trans fats may promote insulin resistance, too, risking type 2 diabetes.

Abolition of PHOs

In June 2015, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined that artificial trans fats are not generally recognised as safe, and set a three-year time limit for their removal from all processed foods. Despite an 85% reduction already achieved by the industry over the past ten years, mainly due to mandatory labelling, US manufacturers are facing a challenging phase-out period toward PHO-free recipes.

Fortunately, a few countries have been hard at work finding solutions. In Denmark, PHOs were banned in 2006. In the years that followed, the country showed a remarkable improvement in cardiovascular disease mortality rates. This is also where the world's first commercial food emulsifiers were invented by Palsgaard, applying over 100 years of expertise to the challenges of production free from trans fats.

Life without PHOs

Without PHOs, it's harder to consistently form stable products, support mouthfeel and extend shelf life. Every part of production becomes sensitive to factors that were previously handled by PHOs. So, how can recipes be adjusted to maintain quality?

The road ahead for large-scale bakery production is paved with palm oil. While fully hydrogenated soy bean oil doesn't appear to have negative health consequences, and is often preferred in the US market, its melting point is simply too high.

Activated emulsifiers to the rescue

Can manufacturers get non-hydrogenated palm oil to perform just as well, or even better than PHO-based recipes? It is less of a challenge with lower-fat cakes, but for high-fat products, switching from shortening to activated cake emulsifiers is advisable. With the right combination of emulsifiers and expert assistance, a non-PHO recipe can be created with a very similar mouthfeel and texture.

Rapid all-around functionality

Activated cake emulsifiers are another Palsgaard invention. They are activated on starch during the extrusion process, producing a free-flowing white powder that keeps fat out of the equation. The whipping active emulsifier fixes to the outer surface of the starch particles and an enormous surface area of several square metres per gram is created. The effect is rapid functionality with fast uptake and incorporation of air into the cake batter, improving stability and quality.

When bakers substitute liquid oil for trans fats, the emulsifier system must hold the oil in the cake batter, avoiding a change in mouthfeel or oiling-out in the cake. Emulsifiers that can tolerate high oil volumes in aerated and non-aerated systems are necessary. Today's activated cake emulsifiers aerate and emulsify, and Palsgaard's products are based on specially selected polyglycerol esters, and mono and diglycerides made from non-GMO vegetable fats.

Shelf life winner

Powdered extruded emulsifiers were developed for high-functional stability, which is largely dependent on the form taken by emulsifier crystals: alpha, beta or beta-prime.

In cake mixes, using saturated fats and shortening requires fats to be incorporated into the mix by spraying the oil into the dry ingredients. Emulsifiers are then incorporated with the oil in the mix. Crystals form as the cake cools - not all of which will be in an alpha form - or may morph from alpha to beta and beta-prime crystals during the cake mix's shelf life, leaving it without the emulsifier's expected functionality.

Powdered activated emulsifiers remain in an active alpha form - the most stable crystal form to incorporate air - for a long time. Consequently, they have 12-24 months of shelf life in the cake mix, and the extrusion process ensures that the emulsifiers can incorporate air throughout their shelf life.

Practical advantages

Powdered emulsifiers are more easily dispersed in the mix than non-powdered solutions, making dosing more simple. In cake mixes, added ingredients don't need to have a particular order, and the all-in-one method can be used more reliably.

The fewer ingredients an emulsifier contains the easier it is to work with during product development or when adjusting existing recipes. Palsgaard's products, for example, comprise just two ingredients.

Depending on their source, such emulsifiers out-perform PHO-based solutions by enabling:

  • healthier cakes
  • label-friendly products free of fats
  • shorter labels via more functionality in fewer ingredients
  • single-step production, unlike shortening-based recipes
  • better sustainability profiles via palm-oil-based, all-vegetable non-GMO emulsifiers that are segregated according to criteria set by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)
  • reduced sugar content with sugar-free emulsifiers.

Time to choose

There are various powdered activated emulsifier types, each with its particular applications and advantages. Industrial bakers using shortenings or gels might choose a versatile active emulsifier that can be used in a variety of products including sponge cakes, Swiss rolls, layer cakes and pound cakes.

Other activated emulsifiers, particularly suited to retail cake mixes, can ensure fast reactions (see the whipping curve in figure, left). Low density can be achieved in as little as two to four minutes, creating lighter, softer and aerated cakes. Such emulsifiers are also tolerant of other ingredients, enabling good results where there is little control over consumers' ingredient choices.

A sustainable choice

Finally, using activated emulsifiers in cake production enables more sustainable products. A growing number of emulsifiers are available with RSPO-segregated certification. This requires more from manufacturers' production and Palsgaard supports customers by sharing its own RSPO transition.

Key factors

Successfully moving to non-PHO-based recipes demands access to expertise from the emulsifier manufacturer. Leading manufacturers can provide application experts, pilot labs and generic recipes to assist the industry, increasing the likelihood of a smooth, cost-effective transition.

In order to enhance the chances of success with new market-compliant cake products, contacting an activated emulsifier producer to learn more about these highly effective ingredients is a wise first step for any PHO-free strategy.

What is an activated cake emulsifier?

Palsgaard uses the term activated cake emulsifier to describe the properties of the Emulpals (for bakers mixes) and Palsgaard SA series (for industrial use) when added to a cake batter. Activation is achieved by placing the emulsifier on the surface of small starch granules by means of a special extrusion process.

The whipping active emulsifier is fixed to the outer surface of the starch particles during the extrusion process, and has proven to be extremely stable in functionality and storage.

The result is significant: a single 15kg carton has a surface area equal to four or five football fields. This is the basis for the high efficiency of Palsgaard's activated cake emulsifiers.

References available upon request.

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Palsgaardvej 10
7130 Juelsminde
Email: [email protected]

Our fully equipped industrial baking pilot plant in Denmark provides the best basis for understanding the complex nature of industrial baking.
Palsgaard’s chocolate pilot plants provide the best basis for understanding the complex nature of chocolate manufacturing.
Having global application centres enables us to be in close contact with our customers throughout the entire process of preparing a new product.
Having worked with margarine for almost a century Palsgaard knows there is much more to creating successful margarine products than applying the right emulsifiers - you also need the right processing conditions.
Activated emulsifiers can be used for aerated and non-aerated cakes in bakers’ mixes, retail mixes and industrial cakes.
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