High Oleic Sunflower oil in a bottle and sunflower seeds near fresh sunflower flower on a wooden background.

Sunflower is the fourth most important source of edible vegetable oil globally and contributes up to 12% of edible oil production. Within the market, the standard variant of sunflower oil is considered mid oleic. A small share is linoleic sunflower oil. A newer variant with altered properties is referred to as high oleic sunflower oil.

High-oleic oil, in general, is growing rapidly in the oilseed market primarily as a response to consumer demand. Benefits for consumers and food manufacturers include increased nutrition and increased shelf stability of products due to the oil’s altered properties.

For processors to maximize profitability, efficiency, and other benefits that this sunflower byproduct offers, it’s important to examine how it stacks up against other oils.

What is high oleic sunflower oil?

Some sunflower seeds have been selectively bred to contain high levels of oleic acid, which is also known as monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid. As a healthy form of fat, oleic acid can help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol levels. The FDA has determined that this can reduce the risk of heart disease when compared to oils high in saturated fats.

To produce high oleic oil, seeds must contain at least 70% oleic acid. Sunflower, soybean, safflower, rapeseed, and olive seeds all supply this growing industry. High oleic sunflower oil, in particular, typically contains 82-84% monounsaturated fat and about 7-9% linoleic acid, or polyunsaturated fat.

By contrast, linoleic sunflower oil consists of about 20% oleic acid and 68% linoleic acid, and mid oleic oil consists of about 65% oleic acid, and 26% linoleic acid. But because linoleic acid has more double bonds in its delicate chemical structure, it’s more susceptible to oxidation, which can cause oil to turn rancid.

The chemical structure of oleic acid makes oil more stable, in comparison—extending its shelf life and making it a valuable alternative for many different industry applications.

Read more: Oil Oxidation: How To Measure It And Why It Matters

The benefits of high oleic oils

The demand for high oleic oil continues to grow as consumers and manufacturers alike realize its advantages over other fat sources. Fueled by this demand, the global market for high oleic oil is projected to reach $290 billion by 2026, according to a report by Expert Market Research.

Here are some of the top reasons why people are turning to high oleic oil.

• Healthy fat source

Because of its high concentration of monounsaturated fatty acids, high oleic sunflower oil provides a healthy source of fat. As a replacement for polyunsaturated fats, saturated fatty acids, and trans-fats, high oleic oil can help reduce the risk of coronary disease and other health issues.

• High heat stability

Unlike fragile linoleic acids that break down at high temperatures, high oleic oils can withstand the heat. A higher smoke point makes high oleic sunflower oil ideal for high-heat cooking and frying. Low levels of linolenic acid help extend the life of fryer oil, unlocking efficiencies and cost savings for food producers that use it.

• Long shelf life

While high levels of linoleic acid can cause traditional sunflower oils to turn rancid rather quickly, high oleic oils are less susceptible to oxidation. This prevents rancidity and prolongs the shelf life of high oleic oil, resulting in more shelf-stable ingredients for product manufacturers.

• Flavor neutral

High oleic sunflower oil makes a versatile food additive because of its neutral flavor profile. Essentially tasteless and scent-free, it allows food product developers to highlight other flavors without oil taking over the palate.

While the food manufacturing industry is driving the demand for high oleic sunflower oil because of its nutritional benefits, many other industries are finding valuable uses for this ingredient as well, including cosmetics and beauty products, biodiesel, paints, coatings, rubber, and plastics.

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Processing high oleic oils

The same equipment that’s used to process conventional oilseeds can also process high oleic oil. The ideal system for processing these seeds combines a screw press like the Anderson Expeller® with a high-shear extruder like the Dox™ Extruder.

An Expeller presses oilseeds to separate the oil from the meal inside each seed. Anderson’s Expeller can process different types of seeds with minimal modifications, helping processors adapt to market fluctuations as varieties like high oleic sunflower spike in demand.

Pairing the Dox together with the Expeller can double a processor’s capacity by increasing throughput. That’s because cooking the oilseeds with the Dox before pressing prepares the material for better oil recovery. The high-shear extruder mechanically shears, cooks, and dries the sunflower seeds, using heat generated by friction instead of adding steam. This dry extrusion process helps break down the seed cells to release oil more efficiently, ultimately reducing energy costs for processors.

Under the friction and high pressure conditions of an extruder, seeds with extremely high oil concentrations (like high oleic sunflower) release much more oil than lower density oilseeds, like soybeans. This oil deluge can flood and even clog processing equipment unless it’s modified to handle the increased flow. The Dox is currently the only extruder on the market with an optional drainage cage that allows excess oil to drain off. This addition allows the extruder to process the oil-rich seeds even more efficiently.

Read more: How High-Shear Dry Extrusion Advances Greener Oil Milling

Tapping into the potential

With the addition of Anderson’s innovative drainage cage, processing high oleic sunflower seeds through an expeller and extruder can be even more profitable. As the demand for this healthy fat alternative continues to rise, an efficient oil processing system from Anderson can equip processors for success in a growing market.

If you’re looking to add this high-demand sunflower variety to your oil processing capabilities, the team of extrusion experts at Anderson can guide you toward the best possible system design to minimize your operating expenses and maximize your market reach.

Contact Anderson to learn more about high oleic oil processing solutions for your facility.