The company, headquartered in Sweden, mainly manufactures specialty vegetable fats and oils.
The president of the company’s US division, Terry Thomas, said the new innovation center was proposed about three and half years ago.
The facility, which is an extension of the company’s US headquarter, will work with its clients to develop chocolate, compounds, baked goods and other food items, he said.
AAK’s business posted strong growth during the last year, and it anticipates a “bullish” outlook with new innovation centers opening up in China, as well as in the states of Kentucky and California in later 2017.
Following food and regulation trends
“A lot of things are changing in the fats and oils world,” Thomas said.
“We have some regulations around removing partially hydrogenated oils, so our team who are familiar with chocolate and bakery applications are working with our customers to develop solutions… to help them reduce trans-fat which is required by the FDA by the middle of next year.”
In addition, AAK is also working to replace dairy fats with vegetable-based oils and fats in order to lower the saturated fat content in baked products, according to the company.
“Both [confectionery and bakery teams’ efforts] are very much in line with health and nutrition trends that we’re seeing in the food industry,” Thomas said.
Upgrading Hershey’s shaker table
Hershey executives were among the audience members who were interested by a chocolate shaker table showcased at AAK’s chocolate confectionery lab for evacuating air bubbles during the chocolate molding process.
The director of chocolate research at Hershey, Linda Wright, told ConfectioneryNews during the facility tour, “[AAK] actually has a shaker table that is able to shake from horizontal and vertical positions. So that’s something we have to look into at our laboratory.”
She mentioned that Hershey’s chocolate lab currently only has a shaker table that operates in the horizontal direction, and hopes that by furthering its partnership with AAK will help the company get into more accelerated development opportunities, and develop better chocolate products for its consumers.
“We were able to tour the confectionery lab and the bakery lab… what they are doing in those labs is taking large chocolate production units for example, and scaling them way down,” Wright said.
Wright hopes Hershey will continue working with AAK as it is one of the key confectionery fats suppliers of the chocolate company.