Specialty fats are gaining popularity, for benefits other than health, flavour and texture
By Jane Dummer
As younger consumers approach their day-to-day health, food choices can be a moving target. I refer to it as drifting dietary patterns. Many Millennials are seeking and validating their choices with other like minded communities via social media or other online platforms.
This emotional decision making is not new to the food industry. However, the myriad of what I refer to as the “illusion of knowledge” among this cohort as they rely on 60 second YouTube or Instagram clips, rather than gathering the facts and researching the science is creating an ever changing food pattern environment. As a consequence of that behaviour, the sudden increase of health tribes, including a fresh group of them being plant-based, have developed.
When it comes to specialty fats like seeds and nuts, not only have plant-based diets elevated the market, but keto and paleo diets are creating increased consumer demand too. Long-time vegans are also benefiting from these trends with more ingredients and products on the market. Baked goods with better flavours, and textures are now readily available from artisan bakeries to meet the demand.
Moving past common vegetable oils, there is a longing from many consumers for fat ingredients that not only give function to the baked good, but add a delicious taste, texture and offer a health benefit. Sesame seeds were the “new seeds on the block” when my book The Need for Seeds was published three years ago. While new to me, they are one of the oldest known seed crops. Tahini (sesame seed paste) has been used for centuries mainly in the Middle East and Europe. It’s known for its slightly nutty taste, smooth texture and nutrition profile. Lately, tahini has become more mainstream in retail across North America. One artisan baker suggested it’s an excellent fat substitute in her recipes, not only for people who have peanut allergies, but it’s a trending ingredient among Millennials in gluten-free brownies, vegan cookies, and traditional halvah.
Tony Varni, VP of Sales and Marketing of The Nutty Gourmet located in Hughson, California describes,
“Nuts have been used in baking for generations, the whole nut as an ingredient, however we are now seeing an increase demand for nut butters in yogurts, smoothies and of course baked goods. We started with walnut butter and have expanded to pistachio and pecan butters. The walnut butter is used as a taste enhancer, as well as a fat replacer in cakes, sweet breads and cookies. It’s easy to work with having a very smooth texture. It’s a nutrition booster and doesn’t separate as easily as other nut butters. Trendy with Millennials and food/lifestyle bloggers, we have flavours including honey and maple cinnamon. Noting, artisan bakers and other wholesalers usually want the original roasted flavour. To keep up with manufacturing, we’re building a new facility in Hughson, which is scheduled to open in February 2020. We offer one gallon and 40 gallon pails, plus a whopping 450 lbs drum for wholesale and industrial use.”
Consumers continue to seek out less processed foods with shorter ingredient lists. Common vegetable oils are being replaced by nut and seed oils, which have distinct flavours and health benefits. Matthieu Kohlmeyer, CEO and President of La Tourangelle describes, “We’re finding that consumers are becoming more open to and aware of plant-based options beyond vegetable and olive oils. Specialty oils, as a whole, add new gourmet possibilities with nutritional benefits. Consumers today expect the same level of quality from plant-based baking as they do of traditional baking, which leads to adoption of new ingredients like walnut oil. The La Tourangelle walnut oil infuses the entire baked good with a delicate walnut flavour, contributes to a luscious mouthfeel and offers nutritional benefits, in particular a rich level of omega 3 fats. The most popular ways bakers use it is in baked goods that already contain walnuts like banana walnut bread or carrot walnut muffins. Other flavour combinations that pair well with the walnut oil include chocolate, vanilla, caramel, and coffee.”
Even though we are observing an increase in health tribes among Millennials, the three main attributes of the specialty fats including taste enhancer, texture improver and nutrition booster have a universal appeal to multiple consumers across a variety of age groups.
Jane Dummer, RD, known as the Pod to Plate Food Consultant, collaborate and partners with the food and nutrition industry across North America.