Sunflower oil is basically used as edible oil. It is preferred due to its high content of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Significant quantities of tocopherols or vitamin E are also present in sunflower oil.

Due to the higher content of mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids, sunflower oil is susceptible to degradation by heat, air and light. The degradation, loss of nutrients and development of rancidity may be reduced to some extent by processing the oil at lower temperatures during refining. Antioxidants are added to it after refining to prevent the deterioration.

Refining of sunflower oil involves degumming (removal of phosphatides), alkali neutralization (removal free fatty acids), bleaching (removal of color bodies), dewaxing or winterization (removal of waxes) and deodorization (removal of odour). However, some of the nutrients in the oil, such as polyphenols and phytosterols are also removed during this refining process, which improves the heat stability of the oil. Unrefined sunflower oil is less heat-stable than the refined oil and may degrade faster in presence of air and light as well. Well-packed and preserved unrefined sunflower oil is used as traditional salad dressing, especially in Eastern Europe.

Various processing steps during the refining of sunflower oil are depicted in the following figure.

Physical refining process has also been used to refine sunflower oil.

Refined sunflower oil is used as cooking or deep-frying oil at low and/or high temperatures. It is used in making a variety of food preparations as well as snack foods like potato chips, etc. It has been used in cooking of food and frozen pre-fried foods at home, and in fast-food restaurants. Refined sunflower oil is also converted to other forms like hydrogenated fats and formulated in margarines, fat spreads and shortenings. The golden, light yellow coloured, healthy refined sunflower oil has become popular as cooking oil globally. Sunflower oil has been found to be comparable to groundnut oil in nutritional values and health benefits. The high-oleic acid sunflower oil (HOSO) is comparable to olive oil but is cheaper.

Sunflower oil is an ingredient of sunflower butter, which is a paste, prepared from sunflower seeds and is also called as sunflower seed butter. It is used as a substitute for peanut butter, especially when peanut allergies are a concern.

However, the four types of sunflower oil containing – high-linoleic acid (HLSO), high-oleic acid (HOSO), mid-oleic acid and high-stearic combined (HSSO) with high-oleic acid (HOHSSO)– can be used for specific applications, either in foods or industrial applications. The three varieties of sunflower oil other than high-linoleic oil have better stability. The mid-oleic acid sunflower oil, which contains higher oleic acid and lower level of linoleic acid than the traditional sunflower oil, is more suitable for industrial and institutional frying applications. It is also useful as salad oil and cooking oil. High-oleic acid sunflower oil, which contains 80% or higher oleic acid and very low linoleic acid, is one of the most stable oils for all applications, including industrial and institutional frying, and also for industrial non-food end-uses like lubricants, transformer oils, etc.

Sunflower oil has been recommended for use in skin creams and lotions. Refined sunflower oil acts as an emollient and moisturizing agent. It can be used to create a silky smooth lotion, a hydrating face cream or a rich conditioner. It is also used in anti-ageing, skincare, hair care, baby care and sun care products.

Derivatives of sunflower oil have been used in cosmetics. Reaction products of sunflower oil with ethylene oxide (PEG-10 sunflower glycerides = polyethylene glycol derivatives), a pale yellow liquid with a slightly fatty odour, are commonly used in various cosmetic formulations.

Sunflower oil is used as a fungicide to control powdery mildew from Oidium neolycopersici on tomato crops in UK and European countries. It can be sprayed on the crop in both organic and conventional farms.

Being a triglyceride oil, sunflower oil can be used as a fuel in diesel engines after mixing it with diesel.

Global domestic consumption of sunflower oil for the past several years is presented in the following table.

TABLE 1: GLOBAL DOMESTIC CONSUMPTION OF SUNFLOWER OIL

YEAR SUNFLOWER OIL CONSUMPTION, million MT
2017-18 17.43
2018-19 18.05
2019-20 18.85
2020-21 18.27
2021-22 (Estimate) 18.78

[Source – USDA – FAS]

Thus, the global domestic consumption of sunflower oil has stabilized at about 18 million tonnes per year for the past five years.

DEOILED CAKE / MEAL

Deoiled cake or meal is obtained after extracting the vegetable oil from sunflower seeds. This cake is useful as animal feed. It is used as a component of livestock feed formulations along with other nutrients as it is rich in proteins and dietary fibre.

Sunflower meal is also used as a fertilizer and fuel.

Global domestic consumption of sunflower seed meal, a major protein meal, during the past several years is listed in the following table.

TABLE 2: GLOBAL DOMESTIC CONSUMPTION OF SUNFLOWER SEED MEAL

YEAR SUNFLOWER SEED MEAL CONSUMPTION, million MT
2017-18 19.35
2018-19 20.66
2019-20 21.33
2020-21 20.71
2021-22 (Estimate) 21.33

[Source – USDA – FAS]

As can be seen from the above table, the annual global domestic consumption of sunflower seed meal has been about 21 million tonnes during the past five years.

Country-wise domestic consumption of sunflower oil and sunflower seed meal in select countries or regions for the past three years are presented in the following table. In many sunflower-producing countries, sunflower oil is the preferred and most commonly used oil.

TABLE 3: COUNTRY-WISE DOMESTIC CONSUMPTION OF SUNFLOWER OIL AND SUNFLOWER SEED MEAL (2019-22) (‘000 MT)

COUNTRIES MARKETING YEAR SUNFLOWER OIL DOMESTIC CONSUMPTION,

‘000 MT

SUNFLOWER SEED MEAL DOMESTIC CONSUMPTION,

‘000 MT

2019-20 2020-21 2021-22 2019-20 2020-21 2021-22
Argentina Mar – Feb 582 582 582 540 540 540
Russia Sep – Aug 1975 1945 2060 3650 3650 3850
Turkey Sep – Aug 1140 1215 1180 2175 2475 2375
Ukraine Sep – Aug 550 560 615 1350 1275 1350
European Union Oct – Sep 4898 4813 4913 7160 6460 7035
Others --- 9706 9152 9432 6459 6308 6182
World Total --- 18851 18267 18782 21334 20708 21332

[Source – USDA – FAS]

Typical annual sunflower oil consumption for food applications in several European countries is listed in the following table.

TABLE 4: TYPICAL ANNUAL SUNFLOWER OIL CONSUMPTION FOR FOOD

COUNTRIES TYPICAL ANNUAL CONSUMPTION, MT
Romania 280000
Germany 325000
UK 260000
Italy 300000
France 350000
Spain 550000

(Source – FEDIOL)

SUNFLOWER WAX

Crude or raw sunflower oil contains waxes. These sunflower waxes are long-chain fatty esters of long-chain alcohols (C44 – C60). These waxes crystallize at room temperature giving rise to ‘turbidity’. They also crystallize during refrigeration and form unsightly deposits or precipitate. To prevent this, it is necessary to remove these waxes and produce refined sunflower oil. Several different processes are used for dewaxing sunflower oil. In the winterization process, the oil is cooled to crystallize the waxes which are then separated by filtration or centrifugation. The wet dewaxing process employs water with a detergent to concentrate the wax crystals in the aqueous phase. Their removal may be combined with the cold alkali refining (free fatty acid neutralization) and centrifugation step along with the soap stock. The waxes removed during refining are sold as soapstock or oily sand at cheap prices. The separated crude sunflower wax is refined to obtain commercial-grade product.

Refined sunflower wax is a saturated, high-melting and light coloured wax. It contains natural, saturated wax esters of carbon chain length C38 to C54 at the level of 66 – 69%, fatty acids 12 – 16%, fatty alcohols 11 – 13% and hydrocarbons 6 – 7 %. The commercial-grade sunflower wax congeals at about 74 to 77 deg. C.

Refined sunflower wax is usually used as an alternative for rice bran wax, carnauba wax, and candelilla wax. It can also be used as a replacement for jojoba beads in decorative cosmetics. It can be used for food as well as non-food applications. Sunflower wax functions as a strong gellant (even at low concentrations of 4%), stabilizer and consistency modifier in sticks and emulsions. It improves oil binding in sticks, contributes to hardness, texture, strength and mold release. Sunflower wax thickens a formulation by providing a rigid network of crystals. Sunflower wax can also provide emolliency, film formation and lubricity. It is most commonly used in lipsticks, lip balms, salves and other anhydrous color cosmetics, foundations, mascaras, skin and hair care creams and lotions. Sunflower wax can be used in pharmaceutical formulations, candles and coatings.

SHELLS

Shells or hulls of sunflower seeds are removed before oil extraction. These shells are made of cellulose and usually burned as fuel. They decompose slowly. Sunflower seeds shells or hulls have been found to contain allelopathic compounds which are toxic to grasses and majority of cultivated garden plants. Only a few garden plants like day lilies are not affected by these toxic compounds.

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