A product that can resemble lard, shortening is a creamy form of saturated fat made from vegetable oils. The various oils used can include a mixture of corn, cottonseed and soybean oils. To get the product’s texture, the oils normally go through hydrogenation, a process that adds hydrogen atoms to the oil's unsaturated fatty acids. As a result, shortening does not contain cholesterol and can have fewer calories than butter.
Crisco is one of the most popular and oldest brands of shortening, introduced to the American public 1911. The product was invented by Proctor and Gamble, a company that patented the processes for hydrogenated cottonseed oil in 1903. The product’s initial use was for soap, but later it was marketed as a shortening, because of its resemblance to animal fat. There have been revisions to the recipe’s original formula over the years, including a 0 trans-fat Crisco product in 2007.
A product designed to be the direct competitor of Crisco, according to William Cohen’s book “The Art of the Strategist,” Spry shortening was developed in 1936 by the Lever Brothers. The company managed to usurp up to 50 percent of the market with an aggressive marketing campaign featuring a mascot called Aunt Jenny. But by the 1950s, its marketing efforts phased out and it was discontinued in many countries. In the 1970s, the company was sold to Ambrosia Oils, a division of Unilever. Today, the shortening is sold in Mediterranean countries under the brand name “Dorina.”
Clover and Blanquita
In South America, Clover and Blanquita vegetable shortenings are popular, with production in Honduras. Since 2005, the Grupo Jaremar has focused on the farming of palm trees, oil refining and the production of hydrogenated oils. In addition to the normal ingredients, the two products' unique selling point is the inclusion of vitamin E oil. These branded vegetable shortenings are part of the company’s product portfolio, which also includes vegetable oils and margarines.
Spectrum Organic Products introduced a unique vegetable shortening in 2000, a product made of organic palm oil. Palm fruit produces a healthier oil, with 50 percent mono-unsaturated and polyunsaturated healthy fats. Because palm oil is solid at room temperature (up to 70 degrees F), Spectrum’s shortening that has no hydrogenated oils or trans fats. The company’s palm oil supply is the result of a partnership with Daabon's Farms, an organic oil producer located in Colombia.
- “The Encyclopedia of Nutrition and Good Health”; Robert A. Ronzio; 2003
- “Food Processing: Principles and Applications”; J. Scott Smith, Yiu H. Hui; 2004
- MSNBC: Crisco Drops Trans Fats from Shortening Formula; Associated Press; January 25, 2007
- “The Art of the Strategist”; William A. Cohen; 2004
- Los Angeles Times: Curbing our Junk-food Appetite; Editorial; May 29, 2011