Rock stars and athletes aren’t the only ones making a comeback this year. Cottonseed oil – once the darling of the edible oils industry – is hitting the road to promote its ability to help food processors and foodservice operators produce healthier foods free of artificial trans fats.

A new Website launched today by the National Cottonseed Products Association (NCPA), CottonseedOilTour.com takes visitors on a virtual cross-country tour of cottonseed oil success stories. Visitors will learn how their food industry peers, from chip manufacturers to ballpark concessionaires, have adopted cottonseed oil to remove trans, improve food quality and even boost performance.

Cottonseed oil demand doubles in one year

Use of cottonseed oil for salad or cooking oils rose dramatically in 2006, nearly doubling from earlier years to 551 million pounds, notes NCPA Executive Vice President Ben Morgan, who attributes the growth to increased demand for oils that are stable without hydrogenation.

“We also know that numerous crushers and oil suppliers are reporting strong demand for cottonseed oil, and many are rolling out new zero-trans cooking oils made with cottonseed oil,” says Ben Morgan, executive vice president of NCPA, the nation’s oldest cotton organization.

“New York City’s decision to ban trans fats in restaurants last July has been a coup for our industry,” which he says was left with about a 250 million pound surplus after Frito Lay converted to sunflower oil in 2006.

“We are now filling that void thanks to the efforts of our membership and oil suppliers who are reintroducing foodservice operators and food processors to this versatile vegetable oil, valued for its high stability and neutral flavor.”

Opportunities in niche markets

While total U.S. cotton production is estimated at 17.8 million bales in 2007-08, compared to 21.6 million bales in 2006-07, Morgan is confident that cottonseed oil will be able to help meet the demand for trans-free oils, particularly in niche markets.

“Cottonseed has long been considered the ‘gold standard’ oil in frying in potato chips, for instance, and it’s becoming recognized as a solution for maintaining taste and mouthfeel in zero-trans bakery products,” he says, noting Dunkin’ Donuts’ recent switch to a cottonseed oil blend.

Cottonseed oil is one of only a few oils that are stable in the beta-prime crystal form, which promotes a smooth, workable consistency valued in the bakery and snack business.

According to Robert Reeves, president of the Institute of Shortening and Edible Oils, Washington D.C., “Cottonseed oil fits into the various ways of creating a trans-free product, including high-stability cooking or salad oils, shortenings and spreads. It can help restaurants and snack producers successfully produce trans free alternatives.”

Increasing awareness of cottonseed oil

With its new Comeback Tour campaign, NCPA aims to increase awareness among food industry professionals, as well as consumers, on the benefits of cottonseed oil.

“While demand for cottonseed oil is up, there is still much to be done,” Morgan says. He refers to a recent NCPA-commissioned survey of food industry professionals, of which a majority had low awareness and a limited understanding of cottonseed oil and its benefits.

“We plan to change that with the Comeback Tour,” he says, adding that direct mail, online advertising and public relations will round out the campaign. “We’re going to have some fun.”

For more information on National Cottonseed Products Association and cottonseed oil, contact Amy Dennis or Heidi Nelson at 503-274-0086. Visit www.CottonseedOilTour.com.

About the National Cottonseed Products Association

NCPA is the national trade association for the cottonseed processing industry. In addition to the U.S. cottonseed crushing industry, association membership includes refiners, who process cottonseed oil into semi-finished and finished products, dealers and brokers who market cottonseed products, and other firms that provide goods and services to the industry.