“Our focus is in the premium market,” said Johan Westman, AAK AB President and CEO to FoodNavigator-Asia during the opening of the company’s Singapore Customer Innovation Centre.
“We definitely do also supply high-volume solutions, [but the] high value-adding vegetable oils and fats solutions [area] is where we develop, focus and invest, for sure.”
These include speciality and semi-speciality solutions, e.g. fats and oils that provide health benefits like nutrient fortification, answer to a specific trend, reduce cost or improve texture and quality.
AAK deals with all vegetable raw materials that can give oil and fat components, from soft oils (soybean, rapeseed, sunflower oil etc.) to more exotic oils like shea.
“We’re really focusing on becoming a ‘multi-oil, multi-solution’ company,” added Westman.
This aside, AAK is also looking to expand operations in Asia Pacific by growing via ‘geographical expansion’.
“Growth is in our DNA,” stated Westman. “It’s natural for us to find regions and pockets in the world where we can serve the market and have not done so yet.
“That is one of our driving forces into Asia. What you see [of AAK] in Asia now, is only a small part of what you will see X years from now.
“We are definitely committed to continue further growth in Southeast Asia, China, India, Japan.
“In Asia, I would like to see growth not just by a couple of percentage points, but significant growth, to make a real difference. This would be not just in terms of organic growth, but also acquisitive growth and adding competence.”
Trends in fats and oils
The growing population in Asia is seeing increased consumption of processed foods, and as such there has been more focus on the health factor recently.
“[Taking the health factor into account] means a focus on the non-saturated, non-trans, non-hydro fats and oils,” said Westman.
“Fats actually generate a lot of good things in the body – it’s about how we take them, eat them, match them together with other materials [that is important].
“We need to look at how to develop products that taste good, provide the right type of energy without being unhealthy, and perhaps even reducing unhealthy materials in the body.
The other trend Westman highlighted was that of premiumisation.
“When you look at indulgence and premium food, there are more and more of the population in Asia that want to [go for these sorts of products].”
“On top of that, sustainability is also [an area of importance], and all of these require even more specialised solutions to achieve.”
Involvement with RSPO
AAK is also actively involved in the Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), and has been part of its executive committee since 2003 when it was founded.
“Palm oil is an important oil and fat raw material in the world,” said Westman.
“[Understanding this], AAK has been involved with RSPO since its inception, taking an active responsibility and stance [for palm oil sustainability].
Customer Innovation Centres
The opening of AAK’s new Singapore Customer Innovation Centre is a result of the company’s other area of focus, co-development.
“To develop the right solutions, we know it is important to be close to the customers and understand customer and consumer needs. [This] is what makes Customer Innovation Centres so important for us in all regions of the world,” said Westman.
In Asia, AAK also has Customer Innovation Centres in Turkey, India and China, and plans for another in Japan.