The term "high oleic" can be applied to many different types of oils: canola, sunflower, safflower, and more. High oleic oils continue to see a spike in popularity, especially in the natural food manufacturing industry.
Why high oleic oils? High oleic oils are a premium option that have a healthier fat composition, a longer shelf life, a higher heat tolerance and an extended fry life. For these reasons and many more, this ingredient is a perfect fit for natural chips, popcorn, and other baked or fried snacks.
High Oleic meaning
What is high oleic? It is an adjective used to describe a particular type of strain of seed that is used to produce oil. There can be high oleic canola, soybean, safflower, sunflower and lots of other types of seeds.
The oil that comes out of that high oleic seed is deemed a high oleic oil. One example: there is a canola plant that produces high oleic seeds that are used to make high oleic canola oil. Inside these seeds, the fat make up is different than a normal canola seed. In high oleic seeds, there are more healthy monounsaturated fats (oleic acid) than in regular seeds -- which have a higher percentage of polyunsaturated fats.
Due to the fat profile being different, the functionality of this oil changes and provides a bunch of different benefits for food manufacturers and home chefs.
The good news is that the final oil looks and tastes exactly the same, so if you have already done R&D on regular canola or sunflower oil the swap will be easy.
I have listed a chart below that compares the type of fats that typically makes up a regular sunflower oil vs. a high oleic sunflower. You can see how the high oleic oil contains more monounsaturated fats and less polyunsaturated.
Pros of High oleic oil
There are a lot of pros of a high oleic oil. It is one of the top premium options for seed oils, and there's always lots of reasons for food manufacturers to want to use it.
First off, high oleic oils are very stable due to the high level of monounsaturated fats inside. This means when they are in high heat, they won't break down or oxidize as quickly as other conventional oils. This means they hold up well to the high heats found in baking or frying. When baking or frying they won't smoke or cause a change in the flavor of your product.
For a longer fry life, we suggest using high oleic oils. Let us pretend that you change your conventional canola oil (the cheapest kind available) once a day in the fryer of your restaurant. A high oleic oil, in comparison, will last you anywhere from 1-3 days before you need to change it. This will allow you to save money on the oil over time because you can use less oil over the course of a week, while still maintaining the good quality of your food.
When it comes to snack manufacturers, the final shelf life of the product is also improved. The oil is a component of your final product that will go into a retail pack. Due to the fact the oil doesn't oxidize as quickly and maintains it's own longer shelf life, it may help your product to have a longer shelf life as well. (Please Note: To know more details on how much longer your product will last would require custom shelf life testing of your product because each formulation and packaging of the product is different.)
The cons of high oleic oil
Surprise! There is really only one con with high oleic oils: because it is a high quality premium oil it does come at a high price point.
That said, the extended life of the oil and quality of the finished product often outweighs the higher price point -- especially if you are using it for frying and you can use much less oil over time.
Make sure you always take into account: you get what you pay for!