In this Co-Development project, we helped our customer to develop a plant-based alternative to a traditional, dairy-based ghee, a form of clarified butter that originated in ancient India.
In India, there is a growing demand for plant-based foods that are healthy, cruelty-free and that do not compromise on taste. Based on these trends, an AAK customer wanted help to develop a premium plant-based ghee with better health claims since many of the traditional, dairy-based products available in the market contain hydrogenated fats and trans fats, lack healthy nutritional values, and, overall, don’t deliver a desired eating experience.
An extension of the customer’s R&D department
At the beginning of the project, it was crucial for us to understand the customer value chain in order to jointly identify how we could develop a product with similar functionalities to those of a traditional dairy ghee – including a grainy texture and the right melting properties and consistency.
We also needed to understand the customer’s capabilities and resources in order to offer the relevant Co-Development approach. At this moment, we identified the customer’s limited experience and constraints with regards to adding additional equipment to the existing processing capabilities.
To solve this, we became an extension of the customer’s R&D department, offering relevant technical expertise and supporting with recipe and formulation development, regulatory matters, as well as relevant process steps to maximize the needed production capabilities.
A remote and collaborative environment
The challenge was to develop a customized plant-based ghee with the right taste and texture, that could be considered clean label, and that was based on a palm alternative. In addition, the product should not contain any artificial additives and at the same time be fortified with vitamins as well as display an enhanced nutritional profile compared to current alternatives in the market.
A critical Covid-19 situation in India posed an additional challenge. This was handled through efficient virtual demos of laboratory application trials, including shelf life testing, stability studies, and generation of suitable proof points, all conducted at AAK’s Customer Innovation Center in Mumbai. This way of working led to a final prototype that was approved by our customer, which, in turn, ensured the right recipe and processing standardization before industrial production could start.
As a result of the required natural flavors and colors to be used in the product, our specialists proactively, and in full alignment with the customer, connected with other ingredient suppliers throughout the prototype development in order to maximize the technical expertise and create a collaborative environment.
Supporting customer launch
Once the final product was developed, it was time to test how it would behave in the market from a consumer perspective. By being flexible with regards to minimum batch sizes, we produced a small batch of the tailored solution to enable our customer to perform a market survey.
As a result of our Co-Development approach and our deep understanding of customer needs and requirements, this plant-based solution was successfully brought to market according to customer requirements of clean label and an enhanced nutritional profile, while taste and texture matched those of traditional dairy ghee products.