Canola oil’s future bright amid vegetable oil changes

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — Canola has a golden future in terms of demand for its oil, a senior Archer Daniels Midland executive told the Canola Council of Canada annual meeting.

It has been part of the revolution in vegetable oil use and development, plus it fits perfectly into growing food industry needs.

As canola’s high-oleic and low saturated fat qualities are increased, more users will probably tap into it.

“I think we’re only scratching the surface as we go forward as to how it’s going to be used as that blend component,” said Erik Heggen, ADM vice-president for refined oils, North America.

“It has a great opportunity to be the liquid oil portion of those blends.”

The food processing industry has undergone a dramatic shift in the last decade, switching out of trans-fat laden partially hydrogenated oils and into fats that are either naturally high in saturated fat, like palm, or converted into high saturated fats by full hydrogenation. Fully hydrogenated fats don’t contain trans fats.

However, to make heavy, saturated fats work well in food processing, they often have to be blended with light liquid oils. That’s where canola fits in beautifully, Heggen said.

“The opportunity here is to use a small amount of the fully hydro oil and blend with a large part of the liquid oil to get some of that functionality without the same trans fat constraints,” Heggen said.

Canola is valued by food processors because it is produced in large acreages, sourced by multiple companies and is relatively affordable and dependable, Heggen said, describing those as “great advantages” over other possible blending oils.

High oleic canola oil is also a much-valued product among food providers, including restaurants, Heggen said. Because it is abundantly available and reasonably priced, restaurant companies feel confident adopting it.

However, Garth Hodges of Bayer pointed out that high oleic canola has been talked-up for a decade, but its market growth has been underwhelming.

“This has probably been one of the most disappointing segments for us in the market because it just hasn’t grown,” said Hodges.

The CCC hopes to triple high oleic acreage from today’s 11 percent to 33 percent by 2026.

Heggen said there are chicken-and-the-egg factors that might have made high oleic adoption seem slow within the industry. When a product is new, it has a small acreage base, its price tends to be high, and companies are slow to become comfortable with the idea of switching from an existing product to a new one.

But that period is passing.

“It’s probably not as fast as you would like it to be, (but) I’m telling you it’s in more places than you can imagine it would be, and every year it’s in somewhere new than it was a year ago,” said Heggen.

“The growth and adoption certainly is taking off.”

He didn’t seem to see too much threat from high oleic soybeans. Those are slow to get approved and two of the different types have different oil specifications, which means food providers can’t easily switch between them or blend them.

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