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AAK puts spotlight on plant-based solutions, sustainability

Source:FoodPacific Manufacturing Journal

Date Published:11/13/2019 10:11:14 AM

This is a logical step for the specialty vegetable oils and fats supplier, especially as it stays in sync with market trends.  

PLANT-BASED solutions are currently driving AAK’s product development and marketing efforts. The leading global specialty vegetable oils and fats supplier, which has for many years underscored sustainability and healthy solutions, believes this is just a logical step for the company, especially as it continues to stay in sync with market trends.

With more consumers taking the healthy route and greater spending power enabling end-users to be discerning with their food and drink choices, AAK sees demand for nutritious products to continue rising and more manufacturers investing in healthy and sustainable ingredients and solutions. The company expects its plant-based portfolio to be one of its pillar categories in the years ahead as it eyes a stronger presence in the fast-growing plant-based market.

Nikesh Hindocha, regional director for AAK in Southeast Asia, says plant-based solutions have always been a part of AAK and that emphasising such products lets the company advocate further the concept of a sustainable way of eating.

“AAK is a supplier of specialty vegetable oils so pushing for plant-based solutions comes naturally for us. In addition, we have a strong sustainability focus, something that is increasingly becoming important for manufacturers and consumers alike. So, in a sense plant-based food is a movement, and AAK plays an active part of this movement,” Hindocha said.

AAK in Southeast Asia regional director, Nikesh Hindocha, and Paulo Pedro, head of customer innovation

Sustainability and health platform

AAK sees its pursuit of sustainable, healthy plant-based food choices as a long-term commitment and so has developed its own platform for co-developing with customers such products.

The AkoPlanetTM, which was launched earlier this year and which the company showcased at Fi Asia 2019, is a global portfolio of custom solutions that will allow food manufacturers to develop plant-based alternatives to products in the meat and dairy categories.

“AkoPlanetTM is not just a solution that we offer in line with our sustainability commitment,” said Paulo Pedro, head of customer innovation for AAK Southeast Asia. “We also want to offer products that help manufacturers deliver on the sensory values of products. It’s also about being able to enjoy the food after all and not just about feeling good that what one is eating is healthy.”

For plant-based meat, AAK has solutions to supplement plant-based proteins. To provide the meat-eating experience, AAK puts emphasis on creating the “bite” and adding succulence on top of enhancing taste, texture and flavour.

Quality flavour – and being able to produce a good choice of flavours – is likewise at the centre of AAK plant-based solutions for ice cream. Development efforts in this area also highlight creating a creamier and smoother texture and improving the melt profile.  

In Southeast Asia, AAK thinks plant-based solutions have yet to take root but Hindocha acknowledges the potential. “We think this segment will grow more in Asia in the years ahead, and so we will continue to monitor and evaluate developments in the region, and act accordingly,” he added.

Li Na Wong, senior marketing manager for AAK in Southeast Asia, noted the company’s strength in monitoring the market and staying updated with trends. “Whilst it’s correct Europe and the US have been first in going plant-based, in the Asia-Pacific the trend for healthier eating augurs well for products such as meat and dairy alternatives. In the Fi Asia event alone, vegetarian products were very popular, and that’s telling a lot about the market in the region,” she said.

Emphasis on product quality, health value

Chocolate products benefit as well from AAK’s expertise. With the COBAOTM, chocolate manufacturers can leverage a solution not restricting the use of vegetable fats as would other ingredients per regulations. It is ideal for dark and milk chocolate tablets, dark chocolates with nuts, coated products and filled pralines.

The COBAOTM Pure is a cocoa butter that helps create a glossy appearance, stable texture and the snap end-users want in their chocolate. It can extend the product’s shelf life by as much as 400%. It also helps prevent blooming in chocolates without having to use multiple formulations as one manufacturers would if they opt for milk fats, vegetable fats and emulsifiers.

“Blooming is a big problem for many manufacturers and traditionally, the solution is to add milk fat, which is a dairy product. With the COBAOTM Pure, manufacturers are given the option to use a plant-based alternative that solves the problem and so in a way, add value to the customer,” Pedro said.

Peter Liu, business development manager for Special Nutrition, AAK in Southeast Asia

Akovita® ELIP: Natural phospholipid bound DHA

Another new product, the Akovita® ELIP, is a natural source of phosphatidylcholine which has been shown in studies to speed up the delivery of DHA and choline to the brain. Unlike familiar sources of DHA such as fish oil or algal oil that need to be converted into phospholipids to be carried into the brain cells, ELIP is an active lipid mixture of vegetable oil and phospholipids from egg lecithin attached to DHA. This means that because the DHA and choline are bound to phospholipids, these can cross from the blood directly into the brain cells, guaranteeing faster absorption.

“In fact, DHA attached to phospholipids is absorbed almost 60% better than normal sources,” according to Peter Liu, business development manager for Special Nutrition. “The absorption amount for choline attached to phospholipids is even higher at 320% compared to normal choline salts. DHA delivery to the brain is more than 200% compared to normal DHA sources.”

Akovita® ELIP remains stable at room temperature for up to 12 months without cold refrigeration. This could translate into longer shelf food in food applications.

Liu added that Akovita® ELIP can be a potential alternative to DHA, ARA, choline and possibly even emulsifier used in current formulations. What this would mean to food manufacturers is additional cost savings.

According to Liu, “Our regular diet does not provide us with enough DHA. This is why people buy fish oil capsules. But ELIP is much better than fish oil capsule in the sense that it offers better absorption. It is also very stable so when used in food applications such as chocolates, it will remain stable for a longer period.” 

He added that ELIP can be used in practically any kind of product. “We’ve used it to make a biscuit and a soy drink.  We’ve also developed a creamy and delicious peach and passion fruit-flavoured yoghurt with it. It can be used with anything that has a bit of fat in it so it is also quite versatile that way,” Liu added. 

Co-development key

In all these, co-development remains at the heart of AAK’s market leadership and strong partnerships with food and drink manufacturers.

According to Hindocha, “AAK is not just about the products that we make. We believe a lot in working closely with the customer through our co-development platform. That’s part of our DNA. We try to understand what our customers are looking for and how we can work together to find a solution.”

Although AAK admits that many companies go to the drawing board with their own concepts and the company itself does the same, finding a way to collaborate and co-develop takes precedence. “The customer’s ideas and our ideas become starting points for the discussion, from where ideas grow,” Hindocha said.

Customer centricity has been a driving principle for AAK, Wong also noted.

Pedro added, “A lot of what we do as a company is about creating value for our customers. Much of it is [in] trying to understand the market through research, studying the customer feedback that we get to identify the issues that they face and evaluating what our ingredient partners are telling us. Through these, AAK can create different products that address different values.”

AAK, shared Pedro, has identified several value buckets to serve as guide for working on focus areas such as sensory, sustainability or even process efficiency.  “What we do is try to address the different value drivers so that we’re able to meet the specific needs of our customers and offer value to them.”

AAK complements facility expansion efforts with the establishment of innovation centres, which also advance the company’s co-development vision. It currently has an innovation centre in Singapore, Tokyo, Shanghai, and Mumbai in India. All these centres serve AAK’s customers in Asia.

The company has been growing its presence in Asia the past few years in line with its goal to go into growth markets. It now has a greater presence in China, India, the Philippines, and other parts of Southeast Asia and Japan.

“Asia is an important market for AAK. We experienced good growth in our business in Asia the last few years, and we want to build on the momentum further. We are looking to further utilising the way we work with our customers. So for sure, Asia is a focus area for AAK,” Hindocho said.

AAK, however, does not want to limit itself to a specific market in Asia in terms of category or area. Hindocha said the company has a good reach in Asia at the moment and wants to get the most value out of its investments.



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