Bakers can expect rising raw material and processing costs as they adapt to Food Standards Agency (FSA) proposals for lowering saturated fats in biscuits, cakes, pastries and buns.
Many suppliers of fats and oils have developed new formulations and processes to bring down sat fat levels and are poised to guide their customers through the potentially confusing options but are warning their customers of a likely hike in input costs.
The FSA’s proposals outline voluntary recommendations for lowering saturated fat, sugar and portion size among bakery products, chocolate and soft drinks. Consultation on the proposals closed last month and, as they stand, these identify reductions of 5% for non-plain biscuits and 10% across other bakery goods by the end of 2012.
While misgivings over the proposals were highlighted in British Baker’s recent The Big Bakery Debate on the topic (BB, 6 November), many bakers and their ingredients suppliers have already invested in new recipes to reduce the sat fat content of their products. "We have the solutions. A lot of the time, it’s just down to how much people are prepared to pay to maintain or improve quality," says Stephen Bickmore, UK commercial manager of Vandemoortele’s lipids division.
A spokesperson says Bakemark/CSM is investigating the potential for launching a new line of lower sat fat products next year. But what fat and oil products are available from suppliers to meet the saturated fat reduction needs of various product groups, whether it is pastry, cake batters, creams or biscuits? For shortcrust pastry and cake batters, there are a range of all-purpose shortenings on the market.
"Saturated fat levels vary from around 50% for the most basic offering, through 40% alternatives, with some lower levels being available," says Jo Bruce, research & development manager at ADM Pura. ADM’s all-purpose shortenings, including Peerless Melva shortening, containing only 35% saturated fat. To achieve even further reductions, NovaLipid shortening contains just 30% saturated fat. All these alternatives are similar in creaming performance, cake volume, firmness, dispersibility and eat characteristics, she claims.
"For bakers, it is important to avoid a greasy texture in pastry or a dry or claggy cake. NovaLipid shortening has been developed to match the characteristics of Melva shortening, offering optimum functionality for short pastry and cakes. It is also firm enough for use in sugar and fat ’buttercreams’."
The fat used in puff pastry and Danish pastry is pastry margarine. Most pastry margarines available in the UK contain around 40% saturated fat. It is more difficult to change the saturated fat content of puff pastry margarines, as they need to be very firm and very plastic to withstand the laminating process and maintain separation between discrete layers of dough, says Bruce. "However, it is possible to reduce saturated fat in the oil blend, which reduces the saturated fat content without a noticeable effect on the finished pastry. NovaLipid pastry margarine contains only 33% saturated fat and results in puff pastry with good rise and a particularly clean eat."
One method of cutting back on sat fats is to use more soft oils in margarine and other fats, adapting recipes to use a greater proportion of seed oils and less palm oil, says Vandemoortele’s Bickmore. However, he adds: "Palm oil is cheaper than seed oils, so using less of it has implications on cost as well as quality."
Indeed, industry attendees at The Big Bakery Debate identified likely cost increases of between 10% and 20% for new formulations to lower the sat fat content in bakery goods, and potential hidden costs if consumers respond badly to the product changes.
Effect on texture
Cost is not the only variable to suffer from reducing the use of palm oil as an ingredient. "Using less palm oil has an effect on the texture and mouthfeel of products, and while seed oils may be okay in cakes, puff pastry requires a firmer fat for the layering," says Bickmore.
Many suppliers had turned to palm oil as part of the drive to remove trans fats from processed foods, pushing up levels of saturated fat as a result. "It was right to get rid of trans fats, but trans fat levels were actually lower than recommended thresholds in the UK, whereas saturated fats were higher than the UK recommended levels," says Bickmore.
Vandemoortele also lays claim as a pioneer in reduced-fat margarines and butters in the UK market. "Margarine is generally around 80-82% fat, and what we’ve done is reduce it to 60%, and we talk to our customers about how to utilise it, so that people won’t notice the difference so much," says Bickmore. "You have to be more creative with the filling, although that is being looked at too."
Having removed or reduced many artificial ingredients, salt and trans fats, and now saturated fats, "it’s going to be a different product with less of a flavour profile," he says. "With pastry, we have probably gone as far as we can go without additives and to go further, you would have to put flavours and fat replacers in, which would go against clean labelling." Making small, incremental changes to formulation is crucial to consumer acceptance, says Bickmore.
AAK, meanwhile, has also moved from palm oil to liquid oils to cut back on sat fats, advocating its Akofluid Pumpable Shortening as a solution to the FSA’s proposed targets for reducing saturated fats in pastry recipes. A switch from block shortening can reduce overall fat content by up to 25%, according to AAK product manager Daniel Chilvers, with the saturated fat content of Akofluid often less than half that of block shortening.
"We work with the customer to devise the best way for them to reduce saturated fats in their products, from advising on our ingredients’ use in recipes to creating and building the entire handling system to use with it," he says. "The onus is on us to lead the change, not the customer."
Akofluid’s liquid consistency results in more effective mixing of dough, requiring less fat and less working-in, and can be used for cake mixes and shortcrust pastry for pie and quiche bases. AAK technical support is on hand to advise clients on other potential applications and can include site visits to manufacturing plants and bakeries.
"It’s about trying to find the best of both worlds," says Richard Bacon, UK commercial manager of S Black, referring to the difficulties faced by suppliers in maintaining product quality, while lowering sat fat content through a reduction of firmer oils, such as palm. "We have a range of natural dairy concentrate flavours such as butter, cream and cheese, which take the original fat and concentrate it down, giving authenticity and the expected creamy mouthfeel," says Bacon.
In addition to its low fat content, S Black’s Buds range is price-stable and offers a concentrated flavour from very low application levels. Further variants include cocoa butter and olive oil, while the supplier is also working on caramelised and flavoured lines "core products with different tonalities and with the richness and mouthfeel to overcome the fat reduction", says Bacon. "We are applying existing technology to a new market focus area."
S Black has developed a reduced sat fat concept for muffins, using fibres to create a similar product structure to the full-fat product. "This project also showcases how we are able to combine multiple ingredients to generate a strong solution for healthier products," says Bacon. "With this work we have been able to avoid the typical light fluffy texture associated with low-fat versions and maintained the full-fat moistness with the combination of Butter Buds and fibres."
The supplier claims not all lower sat fat products are more expensive, with a new biscuit recipe demonstrating the potential to cut costs through butter reduction. "We achieved both a 50% and a 75% butter reduction, replacing the butter with Butter Buds and shortening to balance the structure, texture and flavour," says Bacon. "In most cases, the replacement of butter with shortening would support a reduced saturated fat formulation."