Foods made with plant-based, clean-label, and sustainable ingredients are trending, but the baking industry has yet to fully capitalize on these high-profit opportunities. One industry leader fueling the momentum for change is Michael Itskovich, founder and director of innovation and R&D for Nikola’s Bakery, which specializes in conceptualizing, designing, developing, formulating and producing one-of-a-kind, marketable and profitable brands for retail and food service.

“There is little innovation in most retail bakery departments,” observes Itskovich, a 25-year industry veteran. “It’s important to me to improve our industry by improving how we think about food and ingredients.” After an eye-opening experience, Itskovich is convinced that Malaysia’s certified sustainable palm shortening is a ‘sleeper’ ingredient that is about to become a major player. 

“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.” 

Itskovich now uses palm shortening in brownie batter bites and most muffins as well as all of the bakery’s fruit breads (banana, zucchini, pumpkin, etc.).

The skeptic becomes a believer 

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. 

It was while using Malaysian certified sustainable palm oil shortening for a premium product development project that Itskovich was pleasantly surprised by how well it worked. “We were creating a clean-label, allergy-free snack targeting healthy aging consumers. I was asked to use Malaysian palm shortening,” he 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.” 

“This makes my life easier” 

Itskovich explains why he’s so committed to now using Malaysian palm shortening. “It’s a no-brainer and makes my life easier. A major portion of our new product development is in the better-for-you and plant-based worlds. 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. 

“And 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, “Nikola Bakery is currently working on three projects with which we’re using palm shortening. Now that I understand there are many varieties of palm shortenings, produced in a wide range of specifications, I will continue to specify only those made with Malaysian certified sustainable palm oil.” 

To learn more about baking with Malaysian certified sustainable palm shortening, and to be connected with product development experts, contact Malaysian Palm Oil Council - Americas

About Nikola's Foods

Since 1996, Nikola's Foods has been providing its customers with food manufacturing and our commitment to quality. The company started with a biscotti recipe and one thousand dollars, and today offers a full line of bakery products to food service and retail locations, manufactures certified gluten-free, organic, and kosher products, and offers product development, marketing, and manufacturing services. Nikola's Foods co-packs products for its brand partners and collaborates with its customers on product and brand development providing full service co-packing services.

The company specializes in baking traditional and unique bakery products for food service, retail, and institutional customers offering muffins, yogurt muffins, stuffed muffins, coffee cakes, sweet breads, pound cakes, and individual stuffed coffee cakes. Its products are manufactured in numerous sizes and are available individually wrapped or in bulk. The company also provides private label opportunities and seasonal manufacturing.