One of Switzerland’s largest snack food brands has replaced imported sunflower oil with a new type of rapeseed oil, in a bid to improve quality, traceability and sustainability.
The move also comes ahead of anticipated EU legislation on the use of partially hydrogenated oil (PHO) in food products, which – when announced by the European Commission – is expected to impose a 2% limit on PHO content in foodstuffs.
Since November 2017, the entire crisp production output of Zweifel Pomy-Chips has been produced using HOLL oil, which is extracted from a new variety of oilseed rape grown by Swiss farmers. Its name is derived from ‘High Oleic, Low Linolenic’ – oleic acid belonging to the monounsaturated group of fatty acids. It is recognised not only for its benefits to heart health and cholesterol reduction, but also for its stability at high temperatures: an appealing characteristic for those using food oils commercially.
"We first heard about HOLL rapeseed oil some five or six years ago," explains Pietro Realini, production and logistics director with Zweifel. "Although we had never used PHOs in crisp production, we had already been using high oleic sunflower oil – and realised that HOLL would give us the chance to set up a 100% Swiss production chain."
It took two years for Zweifel to secure the supply of HOLL oil from Swiss farmers – creating an increase in the Swiss rapeseed harvest – and to conduct the necessary industrial and consumer tests before they were ready to make the switch across all lines.
"Industrially, the tests were conclusive and without any particular problems," Realini notes. "HOLL’s stability is excellent, with a lower free fatty acid content than our previous sunflower oil.
"While this is synonymous with the HOLL variety, it’s also partly due to the shorter supply chain as a result of sourcing from local producers. The oil spends less time in storage."
Both traceability and oil quality have improved since switching production to HOLL, Realini enthuses.
As a leading Swiss brand – Zweifel is the fourth-most admired company in Switzerland, according to the GfK market research institute – and enjoying record sales of €180m in 2016, Realini was adamant that the switch had to be rubberstamped by consumers, too. "We simply couldn’t take any risk on the quality of the products, or our brand image," he says. "Fortunately, HOLL has had very good results.
"In independently overseen tests, the outcome was conclusive. Outstanding crisp quality, beautiful colour and – most importantly – no difference in taste."
Zweifel, which celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2018, now produces more than 100 lines using HOLL – only its organic lines remain non-HOLL, owing to a lack of sufficient organic oil to date.
"We’ve been able to achieve all our objectives: a local and sustainable supply, a short supply chain, happy Swiss farmers and of course quality products," Realini points out. "What’s more, we’ve been able to do all that with no difference in price.
"I fully expect other manufacturers to go down the HOLL route," he says.