Why Are Safflower and Sunflower Oil So Popular In The Natural Food Industry?

Posted by Hannah Broaddus

safflower oil

The popularity of safflower and sunflower oil have skyrocketed in natural food products in the last five years. Of course, before then, these were always oils that were both used occasionally — they just weren’t as popular to the same extreme that they are now.

With the recent trend towards natural and premium ingredients, these two oils have struck a chord with the natural food crowd.

They both contain characteristics that natural food manufacturers want to include in their products. Below, we’ll review each of the different features of these oils that makes them so likable.

 

They Are NOT Canola or Soybean Oil

It’s simple really: safflower and sunflower are NOT made from canola or soy. Sometimes what you’re NOT is more important than what you ARE.

Both soy and canola oil can be regarded by a small crowd of Whole Foods consumers as the unhealthiest of all the oils – this is typically because they are cheaper, and when people think of them they think of the refined, solvent-expelled, GMO versions of them. This topic is a highly debated conversation.

Still, many companies have opted to move away from canola and soy because of the poor consumer perception that surrounds both of them. They want their brands to be associated with high-quality, premium ingredients, and neither soy nor canola display those features in their mind.

This can be a complex topic, because many of the reasons that soy and canola are demonized disappear when you discuss the non-gmo, expeller pressed or organic versions of these oils in particular.

It’s good to dig into the topic with one of our sales consultants to help weigh the pros and cons around these non-gmo and organic soy and canola alternatives. To have that conversation, you can just request a price quote and one of our sales reps will get in touch to consult.

Canola is not sunflower or safflower oil

 

But They Function The Same As Canola And Soybean Oil

In the desire to move towards healthier oils, sunflower and safflower oil have become the two most common de facto alternatives to canola and soy.

It is easier to swap from canola and soy to these oils for for R&D reasons: they have very little color and flavor, and therefore have a very similar functionality in finished products.

This is in comparison to switching to an Extra Virgin Olive Oil, for example, which would greatly affect the flavor of the final product.

 

They Are Not As Expensive As Other Premium Healthy Oils

Safflower and Sunflower Oil are also both cheaper than some of the other premium options like olive oil and avocado oil.

Swapping to a high cost oil can be a challenge for many companies. For example, we work with some brands that want to move to Safflower or Sunflower Oil to avoid any version of canola or soybean oil (even the non-gmo).

However, once price becomes a topic and they are able to compare, the desire to go with the most premium options drops significantly because these more expensive oils can double, triple or even quadruple current costs. It can be a really big affect on ingredient costs.

 

They Are Usually High Oleic (Aka, Ideal For Frying)

In the natural food industry, a high oleic version of both sunflower and safflower are most common. High oleic oils are made from special high-oleic seeds – the difference being that inside the seeds, the percentage of monounsaturated fats is higher in comparison to polyunsaturated and saturated fats.

High oleic oils have more of these healthy monounsaturated fats. This makes them healthier to eat, but also provides other benefits, like having a longer shelf life and lasting longer when frying.

It is this last reason that makes sunflower and safflower most commonly used in snack products today: you will often see chips, popcorn, and other products that are fried or baked in high heat that are purposefully made with a high oleic oil. That is because this oil stands up to high temperatures and other cooking stressors much better, as it is a much more stable oil.

To learn more about high oleic oils in comparison to the other mid-oleic and linoleic options, we suggest reading the following article: Types Of Sunlower Oil: High Oleic Vs. Mid Oleic Vs. Linoleic 

 

They Are Often Expeller Pressed

A common feature of both sunflower and safflower oil that is used in the natural food industry is that they are expeller pressed. This means that the oil is obtained from the seed without using a chemical solvent like hexane. Rather, the oil is just physically squeezed out of the seed.

It’s important to note though: there IS a solvent-expelled sunflower available on the market, but in the natural world most businesses are using expeller pressed version.

Also, keep in mind that expeller pressing has become so popular that it is also available for canola oil and soybean oil too.

 

In Conclusion

At the end of the day, it is the consumer perception around sunflower and safflower that keeps people coming back for more.

Many customers of Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Costco would prefer to see sunflower or safflower on a label over conventional GMO canola or soybean oil. For this reason, you’ll see lots of sunflower and safflower available today as a part of your favorite natural snack products.

Topics: Sunflower/Safflower Oil

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