March 2023
Seed oils – the next free-from?
PDF: 26 pages Powerpoint: 83 slides

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After 50 years of being promoted as one of the healthiest choices consumers can make, vegetable oils – the name used to describe the seed oils sunflower, canola and soy – are in trouble. A small but fast-growing percentage of consumers in the US and Europe are trying to avoid them. Why?

Seed oils are a relatively new part of western diets, and modern diets contain 20 times more seed oils than 100 years ago. That oversupply of omega-6 fatty acids – and in particular linoleic acid – is increasingly being flagged by credible academic researchers as a source of inflammation and a contributor to diseases of metabolic syndrome.

The fact that most oils in the diet are industrially processed and easily oxidised is also thought to be a contributor to inflammatory problems.

The science is controversial, but the debate is being picked up both by mainstream and social media and it is influencing the thinking of health-active consumers. In response, a wide range of food companies – from giants like Mondelez down to small challenger brands - are beginning to review their use of 'industrial seed oils' and, where they can, communicate that their brands are free-from. It's an emergent free-from, but these free-froms have a habit of growing and becoming important in strategy.

This Strategy Briefing:

  • sets out the five steps that companies can take to respond to this growing consumer concern
  • explains in simple language the scientific concerns fuelling this free-from
  • shows how mainstream and social media is spreading awareness among consumers
  • and shows what companies are doing to connect to this emergent consumer need