According to "Fats and Salad/Cooking Oils in the U.S.: Butter, Margarine, Olive Oil, and Beyond," a recently released market report from Packaged Facts, a division of MarketResearch.com, the U.S. market for edible fats and oils is thriving, bolstered by a wave of new product introductions that continue to capitalize on consumers’ growing knowledge that not all fats are bad for you, and, in fact, some are important to good health.
There are two primary types of “harmful” dietary fat: saturated fat and trans fat. Saturated fat, is naturally found in foods of animal origin and has been shown to raise total blood cholesterol levels and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels, contributing to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and possibly also an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
Trans fat has earned the reputation as the most notorious of the two harmful fats. Like saturated fat, trans fat can also be present in foods of animal in origin, however they are most often created during the food processing cycle when unsaturated fats are partially hydrogenated, a process that yields industrial or synthetic trans fats,which are “easier to cook with and less likely to spoil” than naturally occurring oils (Mayo Clinic). Research about the harmful effects of synthetic trans fats has been plentiful—not only can it increase unhealthy LDL cholesterol, it can also lower beneficial healthy high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
“Healthy” dietary fats fall into one of two categories: monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat. Monounsaturated fat, which occurs naturally in foods like avocados and olives, cashews, almonds and sunflower seeds, have demonstrated the ability to improve blood cholesterol levels, which lowers the risk of heart disease. They have also been shown to have a positive effect on insulin levels and blood sugar control.
Polyunsaturated fat is most often found in flax and sesame seeds, safflower and soybeans. Polyunsaturated fat is also the category that contains heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids, which are naturally-occurring in certain types of fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines. While a diet rich in polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) has been shown to improve blood cholesterol levels, omega 3 fatty acids have been found to decrease a person’s risk of developing coronary artery disease. Evidence also suggests omega 3s additionally protect against irregular heartbeats and help lower blood pressure levels as well (Mayo Clinic).
In comparison, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as olive oil, safflower oil, peanut oil and corn oil, tend to be liquid at room temperature, whereas fats that have a high percentage of saturated fat or trans fat (i.e. beef fat, pork fat, shortening, stick margarine and butter) are usually solid at room temperature.
“Thanks to recent studies indicating that certain fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) can lower disease risk, ‘good’ fats as a component of food have left the nutritional dog house, Packaged Facts researchers found. “As a result, consumers who had embraced low-fat diets for years are returning to foods and beverages that feature the better-for-you fats, all in keeping with the larger healthier eating trend that is shaping the food industry.”
“Increased consumer demand has prompted manufacturers to bring new foods and beverages to market touting healthy fats and oils content. And these products have sold well enough, even in tough times, that they’ve emerged as relatively recession-proof compared to other food categories,” commented David Sprinkle, publisher of Packaged Facts. “Some may point out that many fats and oils such as butter, margarine, and cooking oils are household staples that consumers will always buy, but make no mistake, this newfound health perspective is driving sales.”
The outlook for the market is bright beyond 2011, especially as fats and oils marketers take advantage of fat’s newly won place as a desired dietary component. Packaged Facts estimated that U.S. retail sales of fats and oils exceeded $9 billion in 2011. Sales were projected to approach $11 billion by 2016, with annual growth rates edging up from 2% in 2012 to 4% by 2016.