PALM-ALT (phase 2): Novel palm fat replacer for the food industry


Led by the Scottish Centre for Food Development and Innovation (SCFDI) based at Queen Margaret University, the PALM-ALT project aims to provide a game-changing solution to the environmental issues associated with the food industry's dependency on the over-cultivation of palm. The project is led by Julien Lonchamp (lecturer in food science at QMU) and Catriona Liddle (new product development manager at the SCFDI) and is carried out in collaboration with industry partners AAK, Nairn's and Greggs.

Due to its unique lipid composition allowing it to be solid at room temperature and its low production costs, palm oil has become the main functional fat ingredient across the food industry, including the bakery sector in which it is used for its texturising, shortening, foam stabilisation and mouthfeel properties. However, due to the devastating environmental impact of palm over-cultivation on deforestation and climate change, the industry is looking for sustainable alternatives. Alongside efforts to develop more sustainable palm cultivation practises, current palm fat replacement strategies have led to a number of commercial products. However their impact and expansion are limited due to health-related concerns including high saturated fat content and the presence of trans fatty acids.

The PALM-ALT solution is based on a novel combination of sustainable ingredients (linseed processing co-product and beta-glucan), which when processed in specific conditions is able to mimic palm fat functionality, allowing to replace it with healthier rapeseed oil (low in saturated fat and high in polyunsaturated fat). In 2020 the team completed a phase 1 project which demonstrated the technical feasibility of the approach. This current phase 2 project aims to design prototypes of the novel palm fat replacer and the novel palm-free bakery applications (pastry, cake, biscuit and oatcake) at pilot scale and to test them at manufacturing scale at the industry partners with a view to commercialising the products at the end of the project.

The PALM-ALT proposal aims to significantly contribute to a more sustainable food industry by:

* reducing its dependency on the over-cultivation and importations of palm fat via the development of healthier palm-free products with potential to capture significant segments of the functional ingredient and bakery markets
* contributing to the recovery of the industry partners from the COVID-19 pandemic via the added market advantage of these healthier new products
* developing a linseed processing co-product currently used as animal feed (defatted linseed meal from oil extraction) into a high-value ingredient

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