Consumers are increasingly aware of the health benefits and risks of the food they buy. This is especially true for cooking oils that can contain high levels of saturated fats, which are linked to high cholesterol and cardiovascular diseases. While particular oils, such as coconut and palm, have substantial saturated fat content, others boast a composition made up of fatty acids that are considered beneficial. Monounsaturated oleic acid, for instance, is linked to good heart health and has been shown to reduce harmful cholesterol.
Now, advanced plant-breeding techniques have led to the development of a new variety of rapeseed oil with an improved fatty acid profile. Like regular rapeseed oil, high oleic, low linolenic (HOLL) has the lowest saturated fat content of any edible oil, but offers higher oleic acid content. HOLL contains at least 75% oleic acid - around 25% more than traditional rapeseed oils. It also has natural vitamin E content, which is great for the skin, eyes and immune system, as well as good levels of omega-3 and omega-6.
"HOLL oil is one of those rare win-win products," explains Lionel Lordez, business development leader at the company. "It's produced from rapeseed, an oil with which food-service users are completely familiar. There's no procedural change, yet it has significant advantages over 'standard' rapeseed oils, thanks to improved performance, life-cycle and consumer benefits."
In addition to its health benefits, HOLL's high oleic acid content also improves its performance. Monounsaturated fats - such as oleic acid - are more resistant to oxidisation and rancidity than polyunsaturates, meaning that the oil has a longer shelf life than other options. HOLL's heat deterioration is at least 40% slower than regular rapeseed oil.
"High oleic acid content lends stability and longevity to the oil, allowing repeated use for heating and frying without deterioration," Lordez says. "HOLL also offers users one of the highest smoking points from any oil available." A smoke point of 246°C - higher than traditional rapeseed oil - makes HOLL ideal for cooking fried foods and especially giving fries the perfect golden colour. It has also been lauded for its taste by consumer experts.
Acrylamide levels in food should give consumers and producers another reason to switch to HOLL. A chemical formed when starchy foods like potatoes are cooked at over 120°C, acrylamide was judged to be potentially carcinogenic by the European Food Safety Authority's Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain in 2015. On 11 April 2018, the EU's legislation on limiting the amount of acrylamide in packaged food came into effect.
HOLL produces lower levels of acrylamide than rapeseed, olive, corn and soy oils. "It's another score for high-oleic oils over their conventional counterparts," says Lordez.
Furthermore, the US FDA has begun enacting a total ban on the presence of partially hydrogenated oils, which are an artificial source of cholesterol-raising trans fats in processed foods. FDA has judged that their exclusion from the food supply "could prevent thousands of heart attacks and deaths each year".
The World Health Organization recommends that no more than 1% of total energy consumption should come from trans fats and recently launched REPLACE, an action pack to help governments remove artificial trans fats from food. In 2016, the European Parliament voted to limit trans fats in food to 2%.
HOLL contains only trace elements of trans fats - which also occur naturally in meat and dairy - and its use allows producers to stay in step with changing regulations, providing an alternative to the use of partially hydrogenated corn, cottonseed, soy and sunflower oils.
Beyond its health and performance benefits, HOLL - which is sustainably grown in Europe - presents an ecologically sound substitute to widely used palm oil.
"Palm oil has become the world's most popular oil because it's cheap and efficient to produce," Lordez explains. "But concerns are growing about the sustainability of its supply chain", as its cultivation has led to significant deforestation, habitat destruction and carbon emissions; notably, in Malaysia and Indonesia, where a large proportion of the world's palm oil supply is grown.
In addition, despite palm oil's 40% oleic acid content, it is not wholly beneficial for health. "Palm oil has an unfavourable fat profile, with 50% of its fat content coming in the form of saturated fatty acids," Lordez says. "This negates the oftenquoted benefits of its 40% content of monounsaturated fatty acids; however, it's the high concentrations of saturated fat, coupled with a high oleic acid content, that makes it such a popular oil. It has stability and longevity, which are important aspects for the food industry."
With a strong oleic acid content, a high smoking point and excellent shelf life, HOLL provides a viable substitute for palm oil. "This is a crop grown in Europe, by European farmers," Lordez emphasises. "This provides the European food-service industry with a traceable, truly sustainable product that's grown right here on our doorstep. European manufacturers and operators now not only have an alternative to palm oil, but also to soy and sunflower oil."
Research by property consultant Bidwells showed that HOLL is more sustainable, in terms of its carbon footprint and water consumption, than sunflower oil. Sunflowers required four times more water per ton of seed than oilseed rape, while across the production process - growing, drying, storage, transportation and oil extraction - oilseed rape emitted an average CO2 equivalent of 333kg/t of crop, which is significantly less than the average 525kg/t of crop emitted in the production of sunflower oil.
"We're all increasingly focused on reducing our impact on the environment," Lordez says. "Switching to HOLL gives users the reassurance that they're doing their bit too, while also benefitting from HOLL's performance and healthier profile."
This attitude has led to one of Switzerland's most significant brands to switch from sunflower oil to HOLL. Zweifel Pomy- Chips are now made using HOLL grown in the country, allowing snack brand Zweifel to set up an entirely Swiss supply chain that supports local farmers. HOLL's cooking qualities meant that colour, taste and crisp quality were maintained, and Zweifel now manufactures more than 100 product lines using HOLL. There are also health benefits: Zweifel has noted that HOLL has a lower free fatty acid content than the sunflower oil previously used.
Zweifel provides one example of the benefits manufacturers can experience from changing their cooking oil to HOLL. "We think there are compelling reasons to consider a switch from conventional rapeseed or other oils, such as soybean and palm oil," Lordez says.