AAK Builds a Plant-Based Foods Global Center of Excellence in the Netherlands
Swedish-Danish producer of vegetable oils and fats opens three-story vegan innovation center in Zaandijk
Sweden-Denmark-based AAK has decided to establish a Plant-based Foods Global Center of Excellence on the company’s premises in Zaandijk, the Netherlands. With more than 140 years of experience working with vegetable oils and fats, AAK will leverage its knowledge to help companies develop new products.
For decades, AAK has operated in the Netherlands, one of Europe’s largest agrifood economies. The company’s strategic location near Amsterdam offers proximity to the Wageningen Food Valley, a region populated by international food companies and research institutes.
Industry giants Unilever and Upfield have both announced vegan innovation centers within the region. Wageningen University & Research (WUR) has a research lab dedicated to the development of plant-based meat. It received a grant from The Good Food Institute (GFI) – an international nonprofit dedicated to developing a sustainable food system – earlier this year.
“Considering the Netherlands is one of Europe’s largest agrifood markets, there is already a large network of food manufacturers, peers in the food ingredient segment, as well as the knowledge and research within the Wageningen Food Valley,” said Niall Sands, President of Plant-Based Foods at AAK.
“This, together with the fact that many plant-based companies are establishing themselves in the Netherlands, has supported our decision to strategically locate this Center of Excellence there, in addition to being one of Europe’s foremost transport hubs making it easily reachable from across the world for our customers,” he added.
State-of-the-art R&D facilities to advance plant-based foods
To meet the fast-growing demand for plant-based foods, AAK launched its AkoPlanet™ portfolio last year. AkoPlanet™ offers tailor-made vegetable oil and fat solutions for food and beverage manufacturers developing plant-based meat and dairy alternatives for the retail and food-service channels. With the establishment of the Global Center of Excellence, AAK is further strengthening its capabilities for plant-based foods.
AAK’s new plant-based innovation center epitomizes the R&D expertise of the Netherlands. The three-story, state-of-the-art center will feature two pilot plants, an analytical laboratory, a customer experience kitchen and a sensory suite all under one AAK roof, allowing clients to bring great-tasting food and beverages to market with greater speed and confidence.
“Investing in this Plant-based Foods Global Center of Excellence reaffirms our commitment to grow our presence in this dynamic and fast-paced category,” said Johan Westman, President and CEO of AAK Group. “Acting as a knowledge center for our plant-based activities, we will develop and showcase our plant-based innovations to support customers across the world.”
Dutch agrifood ecosystem offers long-term advantages and global access
The Netherlands’ agrifood ecosystem proved to be the ideal location for AAK’s new center. This ecosystem includes world-class knowledge institutes like WUR, ranked as the world’s No. 1 university for agriculture and forestry by QS World University Rankings. The country is also populated by a host of international agrifood companies. In fact, 15 out of the top 20 largest agrifood companies have major production or R&D sites in the Netherlands. These food giants are accompanied by plant-based innovators like Beyond Meat and Upfield, accelerating the country’s growth as an agrifood powerhouse.
The long-term outlook for plant-based food innovation is strong. An increasing interest in health and sustainability is driving sales across key agrifood markets as consumers adopt flexitarianism and other diets.
The center is expected to be operational by the end of 2021.13 January 2021