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War in trans fats spears new product development

14-Oct-2004

The battle for market share in the growing zero trans fats oil marketplace has gathered pace after a small US co-operative joined the large commercial players by rolling out its first batch of trans fat-free soybean oil.

In the last month US firms Dow AgroSciences, Bunge and DuPont have all launched their various brands of zero or low trans oil, and joined ADM's NovoLipid, in a bid to tackle the growing market for alternatives to partially hydrogenated oils used by food makers in raft of food formulations.

For this latest product Asoyia, a privately held company owned by 25 growers of the 'ultra low linolenic soybeans' have linked up with America's largest private firm Cargill to process the Asoyia oil made from one per cent linolenic soybeans.

"They are result of more than 30 years of research by agronomists and food scientists at Iowa State University who studied linolenic acid traits in soybeans and developed the Asoyia soybean's unique ultra low composition," said Asoyia.

Food makers are looking for alternative processes to slice the trans fatty acids out of food formulations due to mounting evidence that suggests the TFAs raise LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, causing the arteries to become more rigid and clogged. An increase in LDL cholesterol levels can lead to heart disease.

Incoming rules in the US mean that by 1 January 2006 all trans fats in food products will have to be labelled on the nutritional panel. Europe has yet to introduce a similar rule, but consumer organisations are pressing for such transparency.

Trans fatty acids (TFAs) are formed when liquid vegetable oils go through a chemical process called hydrogenation - hydrogenated vegetable fat is used by food processors because it is solid at room temperature and has a longer shelf life.

Through the processing link with Cargill, Asoyia is looking to turn 6,000 acres worth of the soybeans into approximately 3 million pounds of Asoyia oil, multiplying - ambitiously - six fold to 20 million pounds the following year.

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