Whether eating, buying or cooking, food is an inevitable part of our lives. Whether it's an occasional treat or a lifestyle decision, eating out is a pleasure. However, things began to change as SARS-CoV-2 spread, upending our lives significantly, as lockdowns began. Staying in was the only option, and cooking for ourselves became a necessity even for everyone. While we all seemed to enjoy cooking up a storm at home, the enforced sedentary lifestyle posed the challenge of making our meals healthier. The demand for organic produce and organic and cold-pressed oils and fats skyrocketed in the last two years.
Edible oils and fats are an integral part of the food industry. Whether for frying or baked goodies, edible oils and fats are at the heart of everything food. Reports suggest that the Edible Oils and Fats market across the globe may reach a CAGR of 4.6% and USD 124000 million by 2027. Edible oils and fats offer flavour, texture, and structure to baked and fried food. While the edible oil remains liquid, the fats remain semi-solid at room temperature. The increased awareness of eating healthy has led to tremendous market demand for healthy, organic, unprocessed and non-refined oil.
The fat of plants and animals are extracted and converted into edible oil and lubricants. Edible oil like ghee, olive oil, rice bran oil, groundnut oil, and sunflower oil contains upto 96% triacylglycerides. While edible oils have a minimal amount of antioxidants that enable the oil to stay edible for longer, adding higher levels of these antioxidants is not advisable.
Saturated fats have faced a threat in recent study revelations. Heart-healthy, omega -3 rich, and high smoking points without releasing harmful chemicals are a few essential characteristics of a healthy oil that have been on the recent trends. Therefore, removing/ reducing saturated fats has become vital for food manufacturing companies. However, while the demand for edible oils and fats is enormous, it is not the same as the profit margin for the edible oil and fats manufacturers.
Manufacturing companies have been exploring various options to reduce the number of saturated fats in their output and enable their oils to be healthier. In the process, conventional breeding practices and genetic modification are a few ways to allow manufacturing companies to produce oil with higher oleic acid.
At the same time, the last few years in the edible oil industry has exponentially increased the production of soy, canola, and sunflower oils due to factors like their shelf life, high smoke points, and health profile without any compromise. While the demand for edible oils & fats is enormous, the profit margin for the edible oil & fats manufacturers is not very high. Oil cakes and by-products can be fodder for livestock, raw materials in cosmetics production, and lubrication for heavy machinery. Let us look at a few innovative ways the residue of oil and oil cakes can generate profits when you use the right machinery.
Biodiesel derives from animal fats, non-edible vegetable oils, and by-products of oil & fats; it is a renewable fuel. Biodiesel can be used both in its pure form or by blending it with conventional diesel for automotive / heating purposes. It can help reduce the consumption of petrol. Ethanol and propanol are the alcohols that are a part of biodiesel production. But the Biodiesel produced with methanol, where you find methyl ester, the alkaline catalyst, is the most economical. Canola, Soybean, Vegetable oil, and palm oil are a few other acronyms of Biodiesel. While Biodiesel is slowly rising to fame, many companies are yet to use the by-products and convert them into renewable fuel.
Sunflower seeds and soybeans are a significant source of derivation for Lecithins. Corn and animal fats are also a few other options of derivation. Cosmetics, medication, and other food preparations use Lecithins since it helps extend the shelf life. Lecithin acts as an emulsifier in a wide range of food. The presence of phosphatidylcholine makes Lecithin important for various health benefits like supplements preparation cholesterol reduction and helps improve digestion and immune function. Although there aren't any known dangers of using Lecithin, humans prone to allergies from various foods had better watch out since it could lead to severe reactions.
While Lecithin has been around, its importance and usage have gained fame over the past few years. Therefore, it is an excellent idea for oil manufacturing companies to take note of its significance.
Vegetable oils/ fats go through a lengthy splitting, purification, and reaction process. While the process itself is long, it has proven lucrative due to its application in cosmetics, chemical industries, and lubricants. Oleochemical derivatives are in great demand for emulsifier surfactants and work as additives to improve polymer characteristics. The oils and fats manufacturing companies are on the verge of realising the value of Oleochemicals and their marketability. However, the next few years will see a tremendous change in this area, considering this is quite a lucrative opportunity that has remained unexplored over the years.
Rice bran oil - the emerging winner
The cooling and lubrication of lathes and other cutting machinery require many petroleum-based oils, which have an adverse effect. The mineral oils used regularly have been linked to cancer and proven to be causing harmful effects with prolonged usage. The recent research on the usage of rice bran oil in the cooling and lubrication process has proven to be a greener option compared to the commercial cutting fluid. Furthermore, the performance of the machinery seems to be much better with the "green" oil use. The rice bran oil is derived from the chaff or the rice husk and is known to have been a popular cooking oil in Asian countries. The rice bran oil usage in cooking has seen a significant increase over the past few years, and its other applications are sure to cause a spike in its production shortly.
Cold press a organic is the way forward
Cold-pressed and organic oils have taken an important place in the edible oil scene and are emerging as one of the most sought-after businesses in the oil & fats industry. While cold-pressed oil refers to the process/ method of oil extraction, organic oil labels mention zero pesticides/ chemicals used in their extraction. While both the processes seem different, it is essential to understand that the equipment and approach make all the difference. It is about time for more oil processing companies to note the changing demand in the market and jump on the bandwagon.
While the cold-pressed oil extraction methods have been around for a while, there has been an addition in the variety of seeds like fennel, cumin, mustard, and chia seeds, among others joining the list. In addition, vegetables like carrot, tomato, and broccoli are also getting ready to follow suit.
Challenges in the processing of edible oil and fats
Edible oil and fats extraction processing poses numerous challenges, from procuring raw materials to making the end product available to the consumer
- Adherence to FOSFA/NOPA rules.
- Raw material purchasing
- Seasonal availability of raw materials
- Adherence to commercial terms
- Monitoring and control of oil contaminations
- Oil storage conditions
- Customs and other transportation criteria
Therefore, finding innovative ways to retain edible protein, protect human health, and do all of it cost-efficiently through sustainable processing methods is quite a challenge.
The solvent extraction process, avoiding hexane and replacing it with a greener alternative without compromising health and economic factors, comes with complexities. Bio sourced solvents and a change in the mechanical process are a few ways of managing an eco and health-friendly oil extraction process. Managing the residue or the co-products is vital when sustainable methods take equal importance. The utilisation of biodegradable organic carbon plays a crucial role in the latest techniques and oil extraction processes.
Unfortunately for edible oils, farm to fork involves a series of possibilities where fraudulent activities can occur. Adulteration of edible oil's and the labelling authenticity has become important over the past few years. Olive oil, avocado and grapeseed oil have gained popularity for health benefits. Unfortunately, doctored labelling and adulteration have been issues that manufacturers face and are yet to find a solution.
Food enthusiasts across the globe have opened up their doors to food from various cultures. It has led to a tremendous increase in healthier food options, mainly oils and fats. From culinary purposes to industrial use, the oil & fats industry is on a boom that we have never seen before. Manufacturing companies have realised the need to opt for greener instead of heavy chemical choices. From organic oils to cold-pressed oils, utilising by-products for industrial purposes to their utilisation in cosmetic and medical space, the oils and fats industry has been going through innovation at a much faster pace than the past decade.
Wilmar, Cargill, IFFCO, Adani group, Basso Fedele & Figli are among the top global and domestic players. Like everything else, the raw materials for oil processing come from agriculture. As a result, global greenhouse gas emissions account for up to 15%, leading to climate change. While there are numerous challenges, offering training to farmers, providing them with better seeds, and technological innovation in the oilseed processing industry are a few ways that help to overcome them. It can bring about a sea of change and enable manufacturers to meet the growing demand.
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