Earlier this month, I was able to fly to Bismarck, North Dakota, for a 1-day trip sponsored by the National Sunflower Association (NSA). I had never been to North Dakota before, and I was excited to see some sunflowers in person.

The trip was only about 24 hours long, but I managed to cram in a ton of knowledge—as well as that sunflower visit—during my time there. I also was able to try bison (tastes like steak, but chewier), as well as candied sunflower seed ice cream (delicious!), but that's a story for another blog post... 

More and more companies have been using different types of oils in their snacks lately—for instance, Kettle Brand recently released a Tropical Salsa flavored potato chip, which is made with 100 percent avocado oil. Sunflower oil is another option for brands looking to expand their portfolio, although conventional sunflower oil is limited in North America.

There are other types of sunflower oils from which to choose, though: NUSUN (mid oleic sunflower oil) and HOSUN (high oleic sunflower oil) are other options. According to a survey done in 2015 by the International Food Information Council Foundation, Sunflower oil is actually perceived as the fourth healthiest oil on the market right now—the first three being olive oil, fish oil, and coconut. 

Even in the world of sunflower seeds, there are different types from which to consume. We were treated to samples of Honey Roasted Sunflower Kernels, which were delicious and tasted a bit like honey roasted peanuts, flavor-wise. According to the NSA's website, sunflower kernels means that the processor has "mechanically removed the hull, and the resulting kernel is now in a convenient form to be sold raw or roasted for snacking or as an ingredient." If you're snacking on confectionery sunflower seeds, though, those type of seeds are normally "black with white stripes, and approximately five-eighths of an inch long." Sunflower seeds are even available for the bird and pet-feeding market, too—the smallest seeds are usually reserved for that.  

The presentation given by Erik Heggen, of ADM, concluded with this: in today's environment, consumers have access to more information than at any point in the past, and they are expressing their preferences more strongly in purchasing. Because of that, food manufacturers are redefining their products, and the need for oils that provide clean label opportunities, are functionally useful, are lower in saturated and/or trans fat, and are cost competitive is growing.

Sunflower oil meets all of these needs, and is one to consider when producing your next snack—or even bakery—item.