OILS AND FATS IN THE MARKET PLACE


COMMODITY OILS AND FATS -
PALMKERNEL AND COCONUT (LAURIC) OILS


Most vegetable oils contain varying proportions of palmitic (16:0), oleic (18:1), and linoleic (18:2) as major constituent fatty acids. These are generally accompanied by low levels of stearic acid (18:0) and sometimes by linolenic acid (18:3). Less commonly, there are vegetable oils with much of these acids replaced by short and medium chain fatty acids (8:0 caprylic, 10:0 capric, 12:0 lauric, and 14:0 myristic acid). Lauric acid is dominant among these and oils of this type are called lauric oils. Two commodity oils fall into this category – palmkernel and coconut – and both are tropical tree products. Typical fatty acid composition is given in Table 1. Both have high levels of lauric acid but the two oils differ from one another in that the combined level of C8 and C10 acids is higher in coconut oil balanced by a lower level of oleic acid. Other oils are known with high levels of caprylic, capric, and myristic acids, but these are not readily available in the market place.

Table 1. Fatty acid composition (wt %) of the two commodity lauric oils.
8:0 10:0 12:0 14:0 16:0 18:0 18:1 18:2
  Palmkernel 3 4 45 18 9 3 15 2
  Coconut 8 7 48 16 9 2 7 2

Table 2 below provides figures for production, trade, and consumption of palmkernel oil and of coconut oil the period 2006/07 to 2011/12. Readers will be able to derive information for themselves but here are some comments.

The lauric oils are used extensively for both food and non-food purposes (probably close to a 1:1 ratio) and the range of uses is extended by hydrogenation, fractionation and by interesterification. The last is often carried out with a blend of lauric and non-lauric oils, and is catalysed by chemical reagents or by appropriate lipases. Non-food uses are mainly linked with the useful surfactant properties of C12 and C14 chains. Major food uses include spreads, (shallow) frying oils, filling creams for biscuits and cakes, ice cream, non-dairy whipping creams, coffee whiteners, and medium-chain triglycerides (MCT).

Table 2. Production, trade, and consumption (food and non-food) of coconut and palmkernel oils million tonnes taken from precious Lipid Library report and USDA 2013 for 2010/11 and 2011/12 figures).
2006/07 2007/08 2008/09 2009/10 2010/11 2011/12
  Copra*
    Production 5.37 5.72 5.88 5.88 6.02 5.54
    Exports 0.13 0.13 0.11 0.12 0.12 0.11
    Crush 5.16 5.66 5.81 5.81 6.09 5.51
  Coconut oil
    Production 3.22 3.53 3.63 3.62 3.83 3.56
    Exports 1.74 1.93 1.52 2.91 1.71 1.85
    Consumption 3.28 3.46 3.46 3.88 3.81 3.73
  Palmkernels
    Production 10.18 11.10 11.74 12.22 12.55 13.31
    Exports 0.15 0.10 0.15 0.02 0.02 0.02
    Crush 10.04 11.01 11.57 12.29 12.42 13.23
  Palmkernel oil
    Production 4.48 4.90 5.14 5.50 5.55 5.91
    Exports 2.12 2.49 2.58 2.91 2.81 2.53
    Consumption 4.54 4.49 4.83 4.92 5.25 5.68
*Copra is dried coconut flesh and is extracted to give coconut oil.


F.D. Gunstone

James Hutton Institute (and MRS Lipid Analysis Unit), Invergowrie, Dundee (DD2 5DA), Scotland

Lipid Library
Author Updated: March, 2013 Credits/disclaimer AOCS