Our successful story of expertise in plant-based oils and fats started 150 years ago. In 1871, Aarhus Palmekærnefabrik was established to process palm kernels. Farmers used the remaining cakes as animal feed, while the extracted palm oil became important to a wide range of industries.
Aarhus Palmekærnefabrik was restructured and named Aarhus Oliefabrik in 1892. The focus became production of vegetable oils, primarily for margarine. Already in the 1900s, Aarhus Oliefabrik expanded globally through the acquisition of companies abroad. The success was huge—in 1940, Aarhus Oliefabrik accounted for 10 percent of Denmark’s exports.
Another reason behind the success was the focus on speciality fats for chocolates. Aarhus Oliefabrik became a pioneer in the fractionation of palm kernels. This innovative work also formed the basis for the fractionation of shea kernels, the process when shea butter is extracted. Shea butter is an important ingredient in solutions for chocolate, cosmetics, skin care, and much more.
Market leader in speciality fats
In the 1960s, growth and modern production capabilities helped Aarhus Oliefabrik to become a market leader within speciality fats. Børge Beck-Nielsen acquired the majority of the shares in Aarhus Oliefabrik in 1978, and during the 1980s new production plants were built. All operations were gathered under the collective name Aarhus United in 2003.
The birth of Karlshamns
In Karlshamn, Sweden, the company Karlshamns was established in 1918. Karlshamns produced soybean meal for animal feed, while the soy oil was used in other areas, in other products. Using by-products for new purposes and in groundbreaking ways are the main similarities between Aarhus Palmekærnefabrik and Karlshamns.
A creative atmosphere
Kooperativa Förbundet (KF) in Sweden acquired Karlshamns in 1932. The purpose was that KF wanted to use fats with competitive prices in their margarine production. Over the years, KF invested heavily in Karlshamns. In 1965, the margarine and ice cream factory was inaugurated, and a research laboratory was built. The laboratory and the focus on R&D attracted well-educated people to the creative atmosphere at Karlshamns.
In the 1970s, Karlshamns made an important strategic venture as it began to export speciality fats to chocolate manufacturers. An organization for product development and international sales was created. In 2001, Melker Schörling acquired the shares held by KF, thereby becoming Karlshamns’ largest shareholder.
The successful merger
Aarhus United and Karlshamns merged in 2005 and became AarhusKarlshamn, AAK. Through the merger, the two strong organizations would complete each other and find synergies between their markets, offers, and production capabilities. Today, AAK is one world-leading global company specialized in customized and sustainable plant-based oils and fats solutions. We have been making better happen for 150 years.
Celebrating our history
For more information about how it all started in Aarhus 150 years ago, please visit our dedicated site (in Danish only).