The oil is pressed from the seeds of the Allanblackia tree (Allanblackia floribunda) which grows in the tropical climate of West, Central and East Africa.
It has high levels of stearic‐oleic‐stearic and stearic‐oleic‐oleic triglycerides, making it suitable as a ‘hardstock’ (the solid phase of margarine), and is already used in the Ekologisk Flora brand on the Swedish market.
Unilever first applied to use Allanblackia seed oil as a novel food ingredient in yellow fat and cream‐based spreads at a level of 20% back in 2007.
This second novel food opinion allows manufacturers to increase use to 30% and also to use it in blends of vegetables oil and milk at 30%.
Unilever said in its novel food application it expected consumers may also use the products as a substitute for cream, whipping cream, cooking cream, sour cream and crème fraiche.
Despite first applying for this expanded use back in 2014, the positive opinion was published earlier this month. In December last year, however, Unilever divested its spreads and margarine business, which was purchased by US buyout fund KKR for €6.825bn following an auction.
A spokesperson for KKR declined to comment on the ingredient and its place in the business division.
Unilever still owns the Elmlea brand, a dairy cream alternative made from a blend of buttermilk, palm oil and rapeseed oil and emulsifiers.
A 100 g serving of Allanblackia seed oil contains 55 g of saturated fats, 44 g of mono-unsaturated fats and 1 g of poly-unsaturated fat.
As a comparison, palm kernel oil contains 80 g saturated fat while coconut oil has 90 g and butter has 66 g.
According to the Allanblackia Partnership, which works to promote the crop, currently seeds are wild harvested but efforts are in place to establish tree nurseries, domesticate the supply and create a sustainable income for farmers.
The tree is named after Scottish botanist Allan Black, born in 1832. In Swahili its name is Mkimbo.