The oil is derived from the flesh of palm fruits, which have a naturally high beta-carotene content. Particularly in Europe, the use of palm oil has come under fire in recent years on the back of concerns that plantations are destroying biodiversity and habitats in Southeast Asia, and that the oil contains high amounts of saturated fat.
However, red palm oil has attracted attention – in the United States especially – for its high phytonutrient content, including at least ten carotenes, as well as vitamin E and coenzyme Q10. Sternchemie also says its oil is certified sustainable by the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which aims to bring together palm oil firms and conservation groups and certifies oil that has not been grown on land deforested to produce the crop.
The company’s red palm oil is said to provide a golden-yellow to orange-red colour to a wide variety of foods.
“As consumer health awareness grows, our customers are more and more interested in red palm oil,” said Michael Scheinert, product manager at Sternchemie in Hamburg.
The company said that red palm oil could help food manufacturers who want to appeal to consumers’ interest in ‘additive-free’ products by advertising them as free from food colourings, without sacrificing the colouring that makes many foods more appealing to consumers.
The high levels of antioxidant carotenoids and vitamin E also help extend shelf-life, the company said.
Scheinert added: “Our SternRed palm oil is refined by a patented physical process, which lets our cooperation partner in Malaysia produce a virgin palm oil that is free of chemical additives.”
Processing is carried out at low temperatures, which protects the oil’s antioxidants, and it is colour and heat-stable, the company said. In addition, the ingredient is flavour neutral and is less costly than using natural colourants.
“The big advantage is that red palm oil need only be declared in the ingredients as vegetable oil, making it very declaration-friendly,” the company added.