Sustainability at the core: AAK launches plant-based alternatives platform for the meat, dairy and ice cream sectors
Consumers, plant-based solutions and sustainability are a key focus for AAK, says exec
05 Jun 2019 --- Oils and fats supplier AAK has launched a new portfolio of tailor-made solutions for food manufacturers developing plant-based alternatives for products within the meat, dairy and ice cream segments. Called AkoPlanet, the portfolio “is very much founded on the plant-based trend which has been around for a few years now,” Henning Villadsen, Business Development Director, AAK, tells FoodIngredientsFirst from the floor of IFT Food Expo 2019 in New Orleans, US. With this launch, the company is seeking to reaffirm its commitment to sustainability.
“It is an umbrella brand for all our products and delivers in three areas. On the people part and the plant dimension, as well as the sustainability aspect.”
With this new portfolio, AAK will use its distinct co-development approach to work together with its customers to create bespoke solutions.
“Vegan, vegetarian and flexitarian diets are rapidly growing, creating new and exciting opportunities for food manufacturers,” says Johan Westman, President and CEO, AAK Group. “This development is, of course, very interesting to AAK as we have been working with plant-based ingredients for more than a century.”
Plant based growth has been a key theme for several years, but the extent to which it grew into the total mainstream with both vegetarian and vegan options became clear throughout 2018. According to Innova Market Insights data, there has been an average annual growth in food and beverage launches with a vegan positioning of over 45 percent (CAGR, 2013-2017).
“The plant part is actually building on our heritage. We have 140 years of experience within the plants segment. All our sources and capabilities, all our extracting and blending capabilities come into play here,” Villadsen highlights.
AkoPlanet will enable food manufacturers to meet a variety of industry opportunities, such as health, nutrition and sustainability. Moreover, it delivers on the fast-growing demand for plant-based products among consumers, particularly millennials, according to AAK. Sustainable sourcing is a crucial aspect for the plant-based movement and all raw materials used in the AkoPlanet portfolio are, as a minimum standard, traceable to the growing region.
“It is a promise to the planet. The consumers of today, especially millennials and generation X, are very environmentally conscious, so here at AAK, we have this extra promise to the environment, on top of our quality offerings,” Villadsen says.
Villadsen also notes that many of the key characteristics of animal-derived products can be recreated through optimal formulations of oils and fats. This has positive implications for the flavor, texture and other sensory attributes of plant-based foods, enabling manufacturers to create great-tasting alternatives to meat, dairy and ice cream products. The focus is on the health benefits of the products but also on the taste experience, because products are not repurchased if they do not taste good, he adds.
“All our fats and oils can deliver upon taste. We have always tested and proven that the formulation works in a given application and that is also what we are showcasing here at IFT. For example, a plant-based cheese and a plant-based soft serve, where you can see that the oil fits perfectly and gives the right mouthfeel and the right texture,” Villadsen says. “And in this case, it also delivers upon the sustainability promise because we have total traceability as no primates are harmed in the manufacturing of the oil.”
Going forward, the company sees the new plant-based alternatives portfolio as “one of the most important pillars for AAK, because that is where we can deliver something to this very fast moving – plant-based segment – and where we can guarantee good taste, sustainability and health. We can actually provide the right storytelling at the end of the day, to the consumer, with proof to support it,” Villadsen explains.
“This is the key part here, that we are able to prove what we are saying, it is not just branding, it is real content,” he adds. “It is going to be the cornerstone of what we are doing in AAK, we will build on it and hope it is what will keep us moving forward.”
AAK has had an active year so far, starting with the inauguration of its Customer Innovation Center in Singapore to further strengthen its capabilities and customer co-development approach in the Southeast Asian market in October 2018. The state-of-the-art center focuses on applications within Chocolate & Confectionery Fats, Bakery, Ice cream and Dairy, and Special Nutrition.
Early in 2019, the company acquired Dutch company MaasRefinery B.V., which also specializes in toll refining of vegetable oils and fats for the food industry. The acquisition increased AAK’s capacity and supported existing production facilities, as well as enabling continued growth.
The company also invested in expansion within the Chinese market, this past March. AAK has made an approximately SEK 300 million (US$32 million) investment, in hopes to increase capacity and support volume growth for, in particular, its Special Nutrition and Bakery segments.
AAK this week also released AKOSPREAD, a range of fats for chocolate and nut-based spread applications. The new range of fats is touted as offering improved stability in formulations, spreadability, visual appeal, texture and flavor.
By Kristiana Lalou, with additional reporting by Robin Wyers in New Orleans
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