Sime Darby is one of the largest edible oil producers and suppliers in the world, and deals with a wide range of vegetable oils from palm to canola to coconut and more. Amongst its most well-known consumer brands is palm and blended cooking oil Alif, which has a large consumer base in Malaysia and Indonesia.
“Although we do have a wide range of vegetable oil products already established in the market, our focus now is innovating products for the future of food, so thinking about what consumers are going to need to in 20 years’ time [from an] oils and fats point of view,” Sime Darby Oils Head of Product Innovation and Development David Ross Appleton told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“To do this the focus needs to be on developing products which really make up essential components on people’s diets – and at the moment we’re seeing plant-based products really being all the rage, and feel we need to develop oils and fats suitable for use with these to keep in line with consumer demands.
“Plant-based meats and other products are rapidly improving and in 10 years’ time the need for thee to taste great and have good mouthfeel as well as carrying the right nutrition will become ever more important – and for this oils and fats will play a crucial role.
“Whether it’s developing a plant-based burger patty or nuggets or anything else, we all know that fried foods taste good for a reason, and that reason has to do with fats, so we are working on ways to get the fats component right such that the taste, texture and health aspects of these products can also be right.”
Further expanding on the on the health and wellness focus, Appleton highlighted that Sime Darby will also be looking at producing more nutrition and wellness products moving forward.
“We already know that in many markets in the Asian region, many consumers have a vitamin D deficiency – so the idea is that if we have a vitamin D fortified oil, they will be able to just eat their foods cooked with this oil as per normal and get more vitamin D in the process without needing to turn to additional supplements,” he said.
“Then there’s also tocotrienol or vitamin E which palm oil is very rich in, and to boost this we already have the ELAIESE red palm fruit oil which is red in colour. Its red colouration makes it high in carotene and vitamin A too, and also allows for it to act as a natural colourant so with this we can also develop a range of more items, for example like an orange-y mayonnaise which is both visually and nutritionally appealing.”
Fats and oils trends
Based on its wide reach in the oils and fats sector, Sime Darby has observed several very prominent trends in the market which it expects to drive both consumer demand and product innovation moving forward.
“Aside from health and wellness, definitely food safety and minimal contaminants is a big thing in this sector and will continue to be an area of focus in the future as consumers have gained this increased awareness,” said Appleton.
“Along these lines are definitely sustainability and traceability which are already a big thing for the palm oil sector; and there is also a movement towards personalised nutrition where different people look for different [oil product] options that work for them.
“And now with the Ukraine crisis taking place, one thing we can see for sure is that the EU is rapidly running out of oil, and this is something that will force some dietary changes eventually, and could mean growth opportunities for other vegetable oils.”
Work with packaged foods
Sime Darby has also worked with many big names in the FMCG food and beverage sector to improve the oils and fats components of their products, and here the focus on food safety and quality is paramount.
“When we work with Nestle for example, as a big name they are very adamant about their food products being made with oil that is assuredly high quality and standards, and this is even more so when it comes to developing products for infants or young children,” said Appleton.
“So a lot of focus is on ensuring that any contaminants are the lowest possible, and when it comes to infant formula production the standards are even more stringent as this is all they eat.
“Another example is with our flagship Certio cooking oil that various chips or noodles companies prefer, as it is very much focused on frying life and shelf life – the lower oxidant content allows them to not change the oil as often and their fried product to also be longer-lasting and have a more stable colour.”