Plant-based and sustainability demands are driving innovation within the food industry. But those innovations have yet to fully find their way to retail and food service bakeries. After an eye-opening experience, Nikola’s Bakery Founder and Director of Innovation and R&D Michael Itskovich is convinced that Malaysia’s certified sustainable palm shortening is a ‘sleeper’ ingredient that is about to become a major player. 

A family business, Nikola Bakery is proud to create real food for real people. The company’s successes include projects for Kroger, Caribou Coffee, Nutrisystem and others. A major portion of Nikola’s new product development is in the better-for-you and plant-based worlds. “We were creating a clean-label, allergy-free snack targeting healthy aging consumers. I was asked to use Malaysian palm shortening,” Itskovich recalls. 

“As with many people in our industry, I had a huge misunderstanding about palm shortening. In the past, I was turned off to the whole idea of palm shortenings because those I’d used had inferior taste and mouthfeel, and were unstable. 

“The quality of Malaysian palm oil shortening opened my eyes to the possibilities. It’s not just a minor difference. This is a world apart! It far exceeded my expectations with respect to performance and functionality. Going forward, we will only use Malaysian palm shortening for anything plant-based or requiring a higher fat content.” 

He continues, “I am very picky when it comes to our ingredients, and rarely give an endorsement. In this case, Malaysia’s palm shortening is so much better than all other commodity products. It does more than perform well. It is also cost effective, sustainable, naturally non-GMO and trans-fat free, which are all great talking points for the finished products.” 

Malaysian palm oil is a vegan, plant-based alternative to butter. It functions closer to butter than margarine. It creams better and holds volume better. It even has a pleasant mouthfeel and blends well with other oils. 

“The fact that it is certified sustainably produced is important to most people in the plant-based world because they are also looking for that additional social benefit. It tastes good, it’s a healthy fat and it is thoughtfully planted and harvested. When you have this level of care in a product, it shows in its quality. The way Malaysians care about their palm oil production translates into a better product. That’s important to our customers and important to us,” concludes Itskovich.

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