Shea butter in bakery: A healthier and more functional oil than palm?

By Niamh Michail

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/luisapuccini
© GettyImages/luisapuccini

Related tags Butter Saturated fat Fat

Thanks to a patent-pending production process, shea butter can beat palm oil for functionality and health with 40% less saturated fat, says Dutch supplier IOI Loders Croklaan.

Dubbed Presdough 270 SB, the non-hydrogenated shortening can cut the saturated fat content in dough-based products by 40% and total fat content by 20%, the company said.

It also beats palm oil for colour in the finished product and texture - it has more 'puff' in applications such as croissants, Danish pastries and puff pastry.

Director of innovation at IOI Loders Croklaan Renee Boerefijn said the R&D team’s priority when developing the ingredient was to exceed palm oil’s functional and sensory characteristics as well as reducing the saturated fat content.

The shortening is made with 100% shea butter using a patent-pending production process, to replicate the functionality of palm.

What is shea butter like to work with?

“Shea is a unique ingredient,"​ Boerefijn told FoodNavigator. "When crystallizing it will go into β stable crystals, minimalizing post hardening. No extraordinary taste is inherit to shea. However due to lower saturated fat levels, the flavour of products made [with it] are better and there is no cling in the mouth.”

In terms of oxidative stability, shea butter is “comparable to market references​”.

Presdough gives an excellent eating experience, with respect to flavor, texture, crunch, appearance (including browning and volume), and mouthfeel,” ​said Boerefijn. “It outperforms existing alternatives in terms of functionality and nutrition and is very cost efficient.”

In most applications, Presdough can replace palm oil like-for-like without any need for recipe changes, a spokesperson for the company said.

The Netherlands-headquartered supplier said it has already begun developing Presdough variants for cakes and cookies.

The supplier said it expects "a broad European demand"​ but especially from Italy and France, which traditionally have an interest in palm alternatives.

Working with women's cooperatives

Shea is grown in major cocoa producing countries such as Ghana and the Ivory Coast as well as in countries located in the Sahel belt – the northern regions of Burkina Faso, Mali, Nigeria, Benin and Togo.

IOI Loders Croklaan claims to be the first company to have its shea supply chain ISCC and ISCC PLUS certified, and is also one of the 450 members of non-profit organisation Global Shea Alliance (GSA).

The GSA establishes public-private partnerships with the aim of promoting industry sustainability, quality practices and standards, and demand for shea in food and cosmetics.


IOI Loders Croklaan sources around 70% of shea directly from West Africa, with around one fifth of this coming from women’s groups.

In this way, Boerefijn said the company contributes to “educating and empowering women via projects and partnerships, resulting in improved working conditions, better shea quality and increased income and security”.

It buys the remaining 30% of its shea from third party suppliers.

Although the oil seed is a wild harvested crop, it is not subject to strong fluctuations in production, said the spokesperson.

Last month global agribusiness consulting firm LMC International published a report on the growth of the shea industry and its economic impact on producing communities. Commissioned by GSA and USAID, it found shea exports have increased from 50,000 metric tons (MT) to more than 300,000 MT annually over the last 20 years.

This growth, which LMC estimates to be worth around $20 million (€17.2m) in direct and indirect income for producer communities, is being driven mostly by the global food and cosmetics markets.

Manufacturers will be able to buy the ingredient in bulk and wrapped blocks from April 2018 onwards.

IOI Loders Croklaan will be displaying the shortening at Fi Europe later this month in hall 8, booth J27.

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