The word innovation has become a catchall marketing term. Every new product touts itself as the most innovative thing to hit the market since sliced bread, and all too often that “innovative" product or idea fails miserably. But every once in awhile, you stumble upon something that makes you take a step back and say, “that product really is innovative, and I want to learn more."
That’s exactly what happened to me when I attended AAK USA’s grand opening of its new Innovation Center—dubbed the AAKtion Lab—in Edison, New Jersey, on March 2. Invited guests included leading global chocolate & confections, bakery companies and members of industry media. Terry Thomas, president AAK USA Inc. and Anne Mette Olesen, chief marketing officer, AAK AB cut the ribbon to officially open AAK’s AAKtion Lab, a 3,000-plus-square-foot lab based at AAK’s U.S. headquarters that will serve as the flagship application lab for the company’s co-development process. The Innovation Center features the Bakery Application Lab, Chocolate & Confectionery Lab, AAK Academy and conference area.
Thomas said: “We couldn’t be happier to share this important day in AAK’s history with so many of our key customers, local dignitaries, industry press and our hardworking AAK team. AAKtion Lab allows us to fully execute our co-development approach and will be a huge benefit to AAK’s customer partners. Customers can come to us with any of the Bakery and Chocolate & Confectionery industry’s toughest formulation challenges and our team of industry experts will work hand in hand with them to deliver value-adding solutions and forward-thinking innovation to create finished products that consumers will love."
As one of the world’s leading manufacturers of high value-adding specialty vegetable fats and oils, AAK puts a heavy emphasis on being a co-development company that helps customers find solutions to formulation challenges. Five main tenants make up that co-development commitment: Ideate, Create, Prove, Implement and Launch.
“Today’s manufacturers are faced with some tough formulation challenges, such as converting from PHO to non-PHO and addressing clean label concerns," said James S. Jones, Ph.D., vice president of Customer Innovation. “AAKtion Lab will allow us to provide new solutions for customers and will primarily be used for the first three stages of our co-development process: Exploration and Ideation, Solutions Creation, and then testing in application."
Jones said the AAKtion lab also will be used to organize practical courses and classes (AAK Academies) on bakery, chocolate/compound coatings, and combination bakery/coatings & fillings. These academies will promote new product innovation and educate our customers.
AAK’s Customer Innovation team developed several prototypes and demos for the grand opening event, highlighting cutting-edge technology in the facility and including AAK’s brand of multi-functional fats that are non-hydrogenated, zero trans and low in saturated fat.
The Pan de Chocolate showcased elements of both the AAK bakery and CCF labs using new lamination and sheeting equipment. Cisao® 8120, a votated shortening, is incorporated in the dough to offer ease of handling and dough machinability. Cisao 8285 is incorporated as the lamination fat in place of traditional butter. It contains no color or flavors, allowing the end user to customize it to their and consumers’ desires. It provides the traditional flakiness associated with high end butter croissants, reduces saturated fat by 30 percent, and improves handling tolerances over crucial temperature ranges.
The Shortbread Cookie featuring compound coating included Cisao 8312, a pliable shortening with a texture that allows for better machinability, creaming and better processing tolerance. The compound coating was created with the confectionery lab’s enrobing machine and cooling tunnel and utilized Cebes® NH, a non-temper fat based on lauric fats that provides excellent gloss and a pleasant and fast meltdown.
Biscuits included Cisao 8253-12-05, a shortening flake with cinnamon, and 8253-61-02, a shortening flake with natural butter flavor and beta-carotene. The flakes provide an even distribution of fat, a flaky texture, and the visual appeal of bits of cinnamon and butter, all without a traditional roll-in process. Cisao 8120, a pliable shortening with a texture that allows for better machinability and better process tolerance, is incorporated into the dough.
The Molded Milk and Dark Chocolate Bar showcased the CCF lab’s tempering machine and cooling tunnel, as well as hand tempering by the innovation team. The bars’ confectionery coating fats have the same physical properties and triglyceride composition as cocoa butter, offering a smooth meltaway, and uniform distribution of fat, for a smooth mouthfeel.
Brioche, a traditional yeast leavened butter egg bread, featured Cisao 8285 margarine containing no color or flavor, which enables customers to customize it to fit their needs. It replaces traditional butter, lowering saturated fats, and providing increased tolerance to temperature variations in the production process.
Sustainability Top of Mind
AAK USA is part of AAK AB, headquartered in Malmö, Sweden, one of the world’s leading producers of specialty vegetable fats and oils. AAK USA operates four manufacturing plants located in Port Newark and Hillside, New Jersey, Louisville, and Richmond, California.
AAK offers a wide range of raw materials including coconut, palm, palm kernel, soybean, cottonseed, canola, shea, high erucic acid rapeseed (H.E.A.R.), corn, non-GMO Project Verified soy, high oleic sunflower and high oleic safflower oils. With their broad process capabilities and expertise in oils and fats, AAK develops innovative and value-adding solutions to address formulation challenges of all kinds.
AAK has been working together with customer partners to provide unique value-adding vegetable oil solutions without trans fats for more than 10 years. The company is committed to meeting today’s consumer and legislative requirements without sacrificing quality, turnaround time or competitive prices.
Mark Becker, vice president, sales and marketing, said AAK keeps sustainability top of mind and continues to lead sustainability efforts and traceability of its raw materials, while making a clear difference to the environment and the local communities where the raw materials are grown and harvested. The company is a founding member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and offers RSPO-certified material. AAK’s products are derived from renewable crops, with ingredients grown and sourced responsibly as part of a continued commitment to sustainability.
More Innovation on the Way
AAK is opening two more innovation centers later this year. The Louisville Innovation Center is under construction and expected to open no later than 3Q17, and construction began mid-March on the California Innovation Center that is expected to open no later than 4Q17.
“AAKtion Lab, along with bakery application labs in Louisville, Kentucky, and Richmond, California, and our acquisition of California Oils in Richmond, California, last year, deliver on our brand promise to provide vegetable oils and fats that bring a local, regional and global approach to solving some of our customer’s toughest formulation challenges," Thomas said. “We wouldn’t be here today without our customer partners; we will continue to invest in the latest technology and ensure that our team of innovation experts can deliver value-adding solutions to our customer partners, every day."