This is the first in our series of Supply Side Innovators featured in our Bake Twentyfive issue. Each weekday, we will spotlight a new Supply Side Innovator that can help you create the flavors, textures, and designs your customers will love.

James S. Jones, Ph.D., vice president of customer innovation for AAK USA Inc., one of the world’s leading manufacturers of value-adding specialty vegetable fats and oils, points out that a few trends impacting the future of the retail bakery and foodservice segments are gluten-free, plant-based and reduced sugar diets. There is also a noticeable push to create products that consumers already know and love, while using alternative ingredients that fit within specific dietary or nutritional preferences.

“With consumers becoming increasingly health and sustainability conscious, there is an increased interest in clean label products, as well as consumers seeking ingredient declarations that are simple, ingredients that are sustainably sourced and often a preference for organic certified ingredients,” Jones says.

AAK is known in the bakery industry as a co-development company. In that respect, AAK works very closely with both current and potential customers to understand their needs and requirements, work together to define and establish project goals, mutually decide on success criteria, and deliver a product that meets or exceeds the agreed parameters.

“Three specific factors that our customers commonly express as being top of mind are: quality, speed to market, and price,” Jones says. “AAK is always focused on providing our customers with the highest quality products at competitive economics. As retail bakeries innovate in the bakery segment, AAK Customer Innovation teams are here to assist with product development efforts from concept to marketplace. We have local dedicated bakery, confectionery and plant-based foods teams in multiple locations from coast to coast across North America, as well as a Global Research and Development presence in Europe, Asia, Africa, Central and South America. Our diversity and depth in food product development as well as global sourcing of ingredients and technologies allows us to expedite customer focused innovation and solve brand new challenges that our customers are facing.”

AAK has R&D Innovation Centers in Edison, New Jersey, Louisville, Kentucky, and its newest location (launching in November) in Richmond, California. All innovation centers are staffed by experienced bakery application specialists with a deep knowledge of shortenings, oils and other fats utilized in baking.

AAK Innovation Centers also provide hands-on oils and fats education at AAK Academies or Co-Development utilizing ovens, sheeters, and other machines like those found in customers’ own facilities to solve challenges or to speed new products to market.

“We work closely with our customers to modify existing products, create new products, and ensure successful product launches into the market,” Jones says. “The unique arrangement of AAK locations throughout the US allows AAK to understand regional market trends, which in turn are shared with our customers to focus their goals.”

Fact facts

Recently, AAK’s Customer Innovation Bakery team joined efforts with its Plant-Based Dairy team to develop a 100% plant-based, vegan cheesy garlic biscuit. The prototype was presented at the 2019 International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE) and was met with huge customer interest. Many tasting the product were surprised that a plant-based cheese (non-dairy) vegan bakery product could have such good flavor, texture, color and mouthfeel.

The Bakery team also combined efforts with the Chocolate and Confectionery team to develop a vanilla cupcake prototype with chocolatey inclusions.

Leveraging AAK’s areas of expertise in Bakery Innovation Centers near its customers accelerates speed to market of new products.