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Sternchemie News


May 2012

Sternchemie tests have shown

Sunflower lecithin is an attractive alternative to IP soy for baked goods


Lecithin offers key benefits in baking: As an emulsifier, it makes dough more amenable to machine runability, by binding powders to fat and water better. By homogenising the distribution of fat, it allows reduced fat content, since without lecithin it would be necessary to use more fat to get a good dough consistency. Soy lecithin is usually used to for these purposes, but is coming under criticism due to the rapid increase in cross-contamination between GMO and GMO-free IP soy. Through tests in its own pilot bakery, Sternchemie has now demonstrated that in many applications, sunflower lecithin can be a very good alternative to soy lecithin.

The goal of testing was to identify the commonalities and differences between soy and sunflower lecithin in various baked goods. Different lecithin concentrations were tested in three types of baked goods - bread rolls, freeform white bread and sweet tin loaf. “In a comparison of the influence of soy and sunflower lecithins, overall testing clearly shows that both provide the same results,” reported Janine Binder, applications technologist at Sternchemie.

A key factor is the very similar composition of fatty acids, with sunflower lecithin having slightly more of the nutritionally beneficial unsaturated fatty acids oleic acid and linoleic acid (Tab.1). Sunflower lecithin is also equivalent to IP soy in phospholipids. Its phosphatidylcholine (PC) content is at a similar level to soy, while it has slightly higher amounts of phosphatidylinositol (PI) and phosphatidylethanolamine (PE) (Tab.2). This is an advantage for the baking industry, since PI has higher baking activity.

Standardisation for a wide range of products

Compared with soy lecithin, raw lecithin from sunflower oil has higher proportions of substances that affect quality, which varies greatly depending on the production method. This makes it necessary to process the lecithin before use, so standardisation is very important. “We process the lecithin to a higher degree than usual in conventional standardisation. For example, we also remove the small amounts of processing residue left over from oil extraction,” explained Michael Heidland, Manager Business Unit Lecithin at Sternchemie. “With our long experience in lecithin production, we can process raw material of almost any quality. That is an important factor in our broad product line.” Products range from standard liquid lecithin to sunflower lecithin on carrier to pure lecithin powder.

The powdered SternFlow product is especially in demand in the baking industry. It mixes easily with flour, sugar and other powdered ingredients before the liquid components are added. SternFlow also keeps very well. “We offer sunflower lecithin on various carriers, like wheat flower, gluten and calcium sulphate. If a customer wants a special carrier, we can naturally provide that as well,” said Janine Binder. The standardised LeciStar S 100 liquid sunflower lecithin has universal uses. Like IP soy, it is also very good for baked products, as it gives an even porosity.

SternPur S P is a new addition to the portfolio. This de-oiled sunflower lecithin powder has a very high 95 percent effective ingredient content. “Late in 2012 we will start large-scale commercial production at our new pure lecithin plant in Singapore. We already offer pilot quantities of de-oiled sunflower lecithin for industrial testing,” said Michael Heidland.

Dialogue with customers

Although Sternchemie offers a selection of standard lecithins, the company concentrates on customer-specific solutions, whether these customers are large corporations or medium-sized family companies. This goes for sunflower lecithin as well. Based on application-specific testing, Sternchemie lecithin experts show customers ways they can replace soy lecithin with sunflower lecithin, without altering product characteristics.


Table 1: Fatty acids content in soy and sunflower lecithin

Fatty acids Yellothin 100 IP
(soy lecithin)
Amounts in %
LeciStar S 100
(sunflower lecithin)
Amounts in %
C16:0 15-21 11-15
C18:0 2-6 2-5
C18:1 10-22 13-21
C18:2 50-57 56-70
C18:3 4-7 1-8

Table 2: Phospholipid content in soy and sunflower lecithin

Phospholipids Yellothin 100 IP
(soy lecithin)
Amounts in %
LeciStar S 100
(sunflower lecithin)
Amounts in %
Phosphatidylcholin (PC) 14-20 15-18
Phosphatidylethanolamin (PE) 13-15 5-8
Phosphatidylinositol (PI) 8-11 12-15
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