High Oleic Soybean Oil — The Right Oil at the Right Time


High oleic soybean oil is poised to take the market by storm

By Frank J. Flider, technical, marketing and business development consultant for the oilseed and ag biotech industries

High oleic soybean oil, a high-stability, trans-fat-free oil on the cusp of commercial reality, represents a tremendous opportunity for U.S. soybean farmers to regain lost market share and improve their profitability.

As partially hydrogenated oils and their unhealthy trans-fatty acids are being removed from our food supply, a new generation of high-performance oils, such as high oleic soybean oil, is taking their place. In addition to high oleic soybean oil, other high-stability oils from palm, canola and sunflower are being touted for their high potential in the food industry. The competition has been fierce and taken 4 billion pounds of annual demand away from soy.

Because soybean oil has been the primary partially-hydrogenated oil used in foods, the negative impact on soybean oil market share when those were removed from products has been dramatic. Fortunately, the soy checkoff had the foresight to support the development of high oleic soybean varieties that produce high oleic soybean oil, which, in turn, could help the U.S. soybean industry regain a substantial portion of its lost market share.

Although the other high oleic oils had several years of a head start, high oleic soybean oil will likely emerge as the clear-cut winner. Why? It has exceptional stability and a clean flavor and odor profile. And unlike canola, safflower or sunflower, it has the acreage potential to supply the entire food industry’s needs at a highly competitive price. A unified effort between U.S. soybean farmers, oil processors and the food industry is underway to make this happen.

Having commercialized a number of new food ingredients over the past three-plus decades, I’ve found that the three most important issues for food companies are performance, cost benefit and availability.

  1. Performance — Most large food companies have little or no preference for what plant their oil comes from. They are interested in a high-performing oil with heat stability and favorable shelf-life like high oleic soybean oil.
  2. Cost benefit — Soybean oil has always enjoyed this advantage, and, in time, high oleic soybean oil will, as well.
  3. Availability — Food companies need a steady oil supply. Because availability of high oleic soybean oil is currently low, it is considered by some in the food industry to be experimental rather than commercial. This mindset can only be changed by significantly increasing high oleic soybean acreage and reaching 18 million acres by 2023.

This is where U.S. soybean farmers can flex their formidable muscle — by growing as much high oleic soy as possible. Higher volumes will drive oil prices lower, making the cost benefit of high oleic soybean oil irresistible to the food industry, driving development and reformulation of food products that contain high oleic soybean oil. Once high oleic soybean oil production comes into its own, high oleic canola and sunflower will simply not be as cost-effective as high oleic soybean oil and your market share will likely return, only with greater returns than achieved with commodity soybean oil. Visit www.soyinnovation.com to learn even more about the potential of high oleic soybeans.