Driven by the growing health and wellness trend in food production, Old Fashioned Foods developed Alfa One Rice Bran Oil Spread in 2006, in partnership with Crop and Food Research, a New Zealand-based research institute.
The spread is a natural alternative to butter with added health benefits.
Until then, the company was better known for producing innovative steamed puddings for the New Zealand Market under the Aunt Betty’s brand.
The move to spreads is indicative of the company’s strategy to develop a portfolio of innovative products for various niche markets.
Rice bran oil
The spread uses only rice bran oil, as opposed to the blend of oils commonly used in margarine manufacture.
This enables the spread to be created without the use of hydrogenated fats or preservatives, as rice bran oil is naturally rich in many antioxidants.
Rice bran oil also contains the plant sterol gamma oryzanol, shown to help reduce cholesterol absorption.
“Clinical trials are currently being conducted by Crop and Food Research to determine the exact effects of using rice bran oil, including its ability to reduce cholesterol absorption,” Old Fashioned Foods senior food technologist Stephen McNamara said.
As an alternative to butter, the rice bran oil spread assumes a similar taste, texture and mouthfeel to regular butter while containing less fat and all-natural ingredients.
It is a combination of the spread’s ingredients and unique processing that enables it to act as a direct butter substitute in food preparation.
“Crop and Food Research conducted research on the impact of rice bran oil as a substitute [to butter] and it was proven to be an effective substitute in baking applications, including cakes, muffins and biscuits, without any deterioration in quality,” McNamara said.
The spread’s production process is similar to margarine manufacture where an oil phase is mixed with a water phase and chilled through a votator (refrigeration unit) to create an emulsion.
The spread is then whipped and deposited on an automated filling machine.
Close control of temperatures is required throughout the process, as without the use of hydrogenated fats in the product, variation in temperatures at the point of emulsion and depositing can vary the overall quality.
While the votator chills and textures the product, resulting in a butter-like firmness, natural carotene and butter-flavour extract maintain the spread’s appealing taste profile of butter.
As the first company to manufacture a spread using rice bran oil, Old Fashioned Foods encountered problems in the initial trial and development stages.
“Because we are using a different oil, we could not simply apply the logic of regular spread production,” McNamara said.
“The company’s specialty is in puddings manufacture, not spreads, so to move from a product where there is profound knowledge and experience to one that is foreign and involves a steep learning curve from the start was a real challenge.”
Old Fashioned Foods also found it challenging to develop a spread with so few ingredients as opposed to the large amounts of preservatives and stabilisers often added to aid manufacture and increase shelf life.
Old Fashioned Foods overcame production hurdles by collaborating and leveraging the expertise of people in the company, be it in engineering or branding.
Identifying a niche market and developing an innovative product that addresses a pertinent trend such as health and wellness has also contributed to the company’s success.
The product is currently being exported to Australia and the UK, and Old Fashioned Foods expects further growth after launching a ‘lite’ variant of the spread, which offers consumers increased health benefits with reduced salt and fat, and the added bonus of being dairy free.
For more information contact the Brand Manager.