Oleogels as palm oil substitute

Oleogels as palm oil substitute

Researchers have succeeded in developing a domestic alternative to palm oil from rapeseed oil.

Oleogele und Backwaren
Oleogels and baked goods

Due to its versatile properties, palm oil is one of the most sought-after vegetable oils - especially in the food industry. However, the economic, social and ecological consequences of palm oil cultivation in countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia are controversial. Researchers at the Max Rubner Institute in Detmold and the Technical University of Berlin have now found a domestic alternative.

The joint research project "Oleoboost - Regional Vegetable Oils as Palm Oil Substitutes" focused on the production of so-called oleogels based on rapeseed oil. Oleogels are structured oils that can change or chemically modify the physical properties of an oil under certain process conditions. "We were able to clearly demonstrate that oleogels based on domestic rapeseed oil can replace solid fats in food production without compromising quality," says Sharline Nikolay of the Max Rubner Institute, Federal Research Institute of Nutrition and Food in Detmold, Germany.

High functionality of rapeseed oil oleogels

The health-promoting properties of the rapeseed oil, which is rich in unsaturated fatty acids, were retained when the rapeseed oil was incorporated into the structure of the gelator. The desired functionality, such as the mouthfeel and hardness of the product, was provided by the structure of the gelator. One challenge here was that the solid structure of the fat phase is needed at different times depending on the product. For example, in the production of puff pastry, the so-called oleogelation is necessary in advance, while in the case of heated chocolate creams, the firmness is required both during processing and after production.

Sustainable alternative to palm oil

As a result of the project, the researchers were able to show that oleogels can be a sustainable alternative to conventional fats such as palm oil. "With the knowledge gained, we can proactively offer our customers new applications and solutions and also derive numerous other product innovations from them in the future," says Jens Haunhorst of VORTELLA Lebensmittelwerk W. Vortmeyer GmbH. The manufacturer of specialty oils and margarines was involved in the project from the very beginning.

New markets for edible oil producers

The project team is one of three finalists who have qualified for the Otto von Guericke Award 2022. The prize, worth 10,000 euros, has been awarded since 1997 by the AiF - Arbeitsgemeinschaft industrieller Forschungsvereinigungen Otto von Guericke e.V. (German Federation of Industrial Research Associations) to promote research, transfer and innovation in small and medium-sized enterprises. Volker Häusser, Managing Director of the AiF member Forschungskreis der Ernährungsindustrie e.V. - FEI, is convinced of the potential of the domestic palm oil alternative: "Edible oil producers have the opportunity to open up new sales markets internationally. Manufacturers of baked goods and many culinary foods will be able to offer nutritionally improved products with a reduced carbon footprint in the future."

The project was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection.