Providing good fats
We have eliminated trans fats, and are using good fats in our products.
The two sides of fat
Fat is an essential part of our diet. Fat adds flavour and palatability to the foods we eat. It helps the body absorb certain nutrients and also provides us with energy and a source of essential fatty acids. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), between 20% and 35% of our energy intake should come from fats.
However, too much saturated fat can increase the risk of developing heart disease. The Global Nutrition Report 2018 reconfirms that to eat a healthy diet we should limit foods and beverages high in saturated fats. Instead, people should opt for unsaturated fats or some vegetable oils, like those found in fish, avocado, nuts and seeds, sunflower, canola and olive oils. And we should try to eliminate trans fats from our diets altogether.
Using polyunsaturated fat from plant-based oils
One of our original Unilever Sustainable Living Plan targets was to reduce saturated fat in our spreads products. In 2013, we extended our commitment so that by 2017, 90% of our complete global portfolio of soft vegetable oil spreads would contain no more than 33% fat as saturated fat, and at least 67% as good unsaturated fat. We reached 80% before we divested our Spreads business and we no longer track this target.
We believe our efforts to use more polyunsaturated fat from plant-based oil made a meaningful contribution to reducing saturated fat in people’s diets. We worked hard to reduce saturated fat in our products and promote awareness of heart health, in collaboration with health authorities and healthcare professionals.
We continue to use good oils, or a blend of good oils, in our mayonnaise and salad dressings. We use plant-based oils like soybean, canola, rapeseed, avocado, sunflower and olive oil. These contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are recommended as substitutes for saturated fat. We also continue to decrease saturated fat in our other products, such as in our ice creams as part of our calorie reduction programme.
Mayonnaise made with good oils
A nutritious diet should include oil. Oils contribute polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, which are important for healthy eating habits. Since 1913, when Richard Hellmann created the now legendary Hellmann’s Mayonnaise, we have been making our mayonnaises with good oils such as canola. In 2018, we introduced a new mayonnaise range in the US and Canada, made with the goodness of avocado, olive and sunflower oils. The products are a source of omega-3 polyunsaturated fat and comply with our Highest Nutritional Standards.
Taking action on trans fats
Trans fats (also known as ‘trans fatty acids’), elevate ‘bad’ (LDL) cholesterol and lower ‘good’ (HDL) cholesterol. Health experts recommend that we should reduce our intake of trans fats, to as low a level as possible, to help prevent heart disease.
Trans fats are found naturally in butter, cheese and meat. In the food industry, a process called hydrogenation is sometimes used to convert vegetable oils into solid fats for greater functionality, stability and shelf life. When a fat is partially hydrogenated, this process produces trans fats. Importantly, however, full hydrogenation does not result in trans fat production.
By 2012, we had removed trans fats from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils from across our portfolio to less than 1g/100g product, both in retail and foodservice – see our position statement (PDF | 800KB). To help other food businesses, we have published our definition and approach to removing trans fats from partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.1
1 See Melnikov S & Zevenbergen H, ‘Implementation of removing trans fatty acids originating from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils’. New Food 2012; 5: 44–46. This approach focuses on the main ingredients in our recipes and does not include traces of trans fats from partially hydrogenated vegetable oil that may be found in some flavours or emulsifiers.