Oils Features

Boiling over

The price of fats and oils is rising across the board, but what’s causing it and what can friers do to minimise the impact on their business

As fish and chip shop owners, you’ve probably felt the pressure from a number of ingredients rising in price recently, one of which will most certainly be your frying medium. Since the beginning of the year, the cost of fats and oils have experienced double digit growth and, unfortunately, it’s expected to continue on an upward path at least into the middle of 2017.

The reasons for this are two fold — an imbalance between supply and demand and the weak pound against the Euro and the Dollar. The latter in particular has lead to a 15% increase in the cost of products imported into the UK alone.

Andrew Marriottt, president of The National Edible Oil Distributors’ Association (NEODA), explains more: “With regards to rapeseed, there was less crop last summer, hence less oil availability throughout the winter due to smaller crops and rain in France and Germany, which depleted some of the yields. Although the UK had a reasonable year - it had a better year than the previous one - it’s still not been its best year. This obviously puts pressure on prices.”

And when there’s pressure on one type of frying medium, this tends to impact on others, as Andrew explains further. “When it comes to palm, soy and rape, they all trade off of each other. So if one becomes short, then people tend to move into one of the others, which pushes prices up.”

Biggest increase
The frying medium currently witnessing the biggest price increase is palm oil, partly due to the fact that stocks were in abundance this time last year, a very different situation to now, as Andrew explains. “It’s common for stocks of about 2 million tonnes of palm oil to be sitting in silos out in the Far East. This time last year stocks actually reached 2.5 million because sales were a little bit depleted and people were moving to other oils. For example, palm is influenced by crude oil as a lot of palm is used in bio diesel. If crude oil is less than about 55-60 dollars a barrel, then not too many people use palm in biodiesel as there’s no money in it. At the moment crude oil is roughly between 44-48 dollars a barrel.”

This time last year that was really hitting home and stocks of palm grew. But with crops in the Far East exposed to monsoon conditions, saturating them one minute, then starving them of water the next, yields were down dramatically when it came to harvesting in October of this year. “Stocks of palm oil are now down to around 1.5million, which sounds like a fantastic figure, but in relative terms it’s not. It’s put pressure on palm and, as such, the price has literally gone through the roof.”

Groundnut oil, too, has seen massive price hikes in recent months due to a shortage of groundnut for crushing - once again due to poor weather conditions - compounded by a sudden spur in export demand to China.

As well as price increases because of the supply and demand from the commodities market, there’s also the added pressure of currency differences. Palm, for example, is grown in the Far East and is traded in Malaysian dollars, before being transferred into US dollars and then again into sterling. So you can imagine if those two currencies are not playing ball, then you’ve got a double whammy.

If you’re a beef dripping user, you won’t have escaped the price increases either. With this also traded in Euros, it too has experienced significant rises, as Andrew explains: “Since June, the currency has absolutely fallen through the floor with the Euro falling from around 1.38 to around 1.16 and the Dollar going from 1.54 down to around 1.27. With the added uncertainty of Brexit, plus the situation in America, in the short term there are still going to be increases.”

While many oil and fat producers have tried to absorb the price increases up until now, expecting prices to bounce back, this now looks unlikely so friers need to brace themselves for further increases. “The fish frier is, unfortunately, at the end of line,” says Andrew. “The increases are pushed down from the commodity market to the manufacturer, to the producer, then to the distributor who passes it on to the fish frier.”

This is something echoed by Stephen Bickmore, UK commercial manager at Vandemoortele, which manufactures P100. He says that despite the price of its all vegetable frying fat being held until the year end, prices will need to be increased in January 2017.

Fat/oil management
In order to reduce the impact of these price increases, Stephen recommends friers get savvy with their fat/oil management as this will increase the lifespan of their frying medium, adding: “The ratio of food to fat is important. Too much food and the drop in fat temperature will be detrimental, while too little food means that the oil is being heated but there is not sufficient uptake on to the food to keep the oil fresh. A ratio of 1:10 food to oil is ideal.”

He also recommends friers be vigilant as to anything that can contaminate their oil and degrade it more quickly, for example, ensuring food is as dry as possible before it enters the pan. He adds: “Also make sure frozen food has thoroughly defrosted before frying, avoid salt and seasonings and any crumbed products should be shaken well to avoid loose crumbs.”

And finally, during quite periods, he suggests that friers do not allow the fat in the pans to drop below 120°C (most oxidation occurs at 70–120°C), and advises pans are covered when not in use to protect from oxygen, light and dust contamination.

Topping up oil as you go, checking for degradation using digital probes and cascading oil will also all help prolong the life of your oil.

However, it’s not just looking after your frying medium that’s key to getting the most from it. At Zero Plus Fish Bar in Cardiff, owner Zohaib Hussain says it starts with buying a quality frying medium.

“We use Frymax because it’s so much more efficient to buy in a quality oil and manage it well, maximising the life and value that you can generate from this raw material,” he says: “The alternative is to buy in a cheaper product and throw away your oil every week. This can cost thousands over the course of the year, can be labour intensive and give an inferior product which isn’t consistent.”

Having seen an 8% rise recently in the price he’s paying for oil, Zohaib’s found a number of ways to counter this increase and it doesn’t just focus on his frying medium, but good practice in general.

He explains:”Don’t store potatoes in a cold room. It’s important to have dark, dry and cool conditions as potatoes convert starch to sugars if stored below 8°C. The sugar will then caramalise your oil, which will lead to foaming. This means no outside walls should be in contact with the potatoes and a blanket should be placed over the potatoes if it gets very cold.”

Zohaib’s also a fan of Drywite, which keeps his chips dry and means less water comes into contact with the oil, reducing hydrolysis and prolonging the life span of the oil, and he also lets his pans heat up slowly adding: “Some ranges have a melt cycle that heats up the oil over a set period of time. This way the burners in the range are not at full capacity and not burning oil to get to the required temperature.”

Another thing friers can do, if not doing so already, is to try one of the frying mediums that have specifically been formulated to last longer. For example, Q Silver from The Q Partnership combines three vegetable oils purposely blended to resist breakdown at high temperatures, thereby giving it an extended frying life. Likewise, T.Quality produces Plus20, which it says has been proven to give the frier 20% longer frying life.


Fry right with Frymax

As well as its Good Frying Guide, which provides advice on oil management at every stage of the frying process, Frymax has also produced a leaflet in conjunction with leading frier Nigel Hodgson, giving his top ten tips to avoid oil deterioration. Request your copy by e-mailing ukinfo@adm.com


Look up companies in your area that will pay to collect your used cooking oil. Many wholesalers offer the service with Booker, for example, paying 20p per litre collected, that’s the equivalent of £4 back for every 20 litres of oil.


Have you entered T.Quality's competition to win 1 tonne of Plus20 Palm Oil? If not, click here.


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