AAK USA Inc., one of the world’s leading manufacturers of high value-adding specialty vegetable fats and oils, has expanded their West Coast innovation team. The additional team will support the opening and operations of AAK’s West Coast Innovation Center and Dairy Lab located in Richmond, Calif.

Terry Thomas, President, AAK USA Inc. said, “Please join us in welcoming Dr. Vineet Jindal, Steve Council, Rudy Nava, Cecylia Szewczyk, and Benjamin Schwartz, who have joined AAK’s West Coast innovation team and will be based out of Richmond, California. As we prepare to open our new West Coast Innovation Center and Global Dairy Lab in 2018, it was important that we invest in an expanded team of talented and experienced industry experts. This West Coast-based team and innovation center will support our Co-Development process, a huge benefit to our customers. The process allows us to work hand in hand with our customers to deliver the value-adding solutions and forward-thinking innovation to create finished products that consumers will love.” 

Dr. Vineet Jindal, as Global Customer Innovation Manager, Plant-based Dairy, will help lead AAK’s plant-based dairy segment globally and deliver customer applications training and solutions through Customer Co-Development that guarantees AAK as customers’ first choice for value-adding specialty vegetable oils and fats solutions. Dr. Jindal has 22 years of experience developing plant-based foods, nutraceuticals and special nutrition products for companies such as Nestlé, Kraft, Conagra, Subway, Medfast, and Boulder Brands/Smart Balance, and brings a wealth of functional ingredient knowledge to AAK. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Food Science and Nutrition, a Master of Science in Food Technology, and a Doctorate in Microbiology.

Steve Council has joined AAK as Customer Innovation Manager and will lead the Richmond, California-based Customer Innovation Team with Dr. James Jones. Council brings 23 years of fats and oils experience to AAK, most recently as Innovation Manager, IOI Loders. With a number of publications and two patents in Selective Absorbent Technology, Council brings additional expertise in oil processing. Council holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Illinois and a Master of Science in Project Management. 

Rodolfo "Rudy" Nava joins AAK as Customer Innovation Senior Applications Specialist with accountability for the Richmond Bakery Applications Lab, and will also assist in the growth of AAK’s bakery business with support to internal and external customers. He brings more than 20 years bakery industry experience in product development, commercialization, technical service, and technical sales, with companies such as Pillsbury Bakeries and Food Service, CSM Bakery Products, and for the last 4 years, as Senior Applications Bakery Specialist at IOI Loders. Nava is a Certified Master Baker from Retail Bakers of America and has attended the University of Texas, Johnson & Wales University Culinary Arts, American Institute of Baking, and the National Baking Center at Dunwoody Institute.

Cecylia Szewczyk joins AAK as Customer Innovation Senior Applications Specialist – Dairy and will manage customer-driven and self-directed projects at the Richmond Dairy Applications Lab. She will also provide comprehensive dairy technical support to internal and external customers and deliver customer applications solutions in beverages, cheese, whipped toppings, frozen desserts, and plant-based dairy. Szewczyk brings 12 years of dairy industry experience to AAK, working in business development, customer support, dairy product/process development and manufacturing, with companies such as CSK Food Ingredients, and most recently as R&D Manager at Guggisberg Cheese. She was recognized at the 2015 US Cheese Championship and had a 1st place finish in the American Cheese Society competition for Swiss Style, Light Cheese and Colby. Szewczyk has a Master of Science & Engineering in Food Technology and Human Nutrition with specialization in Food Biotechnology from the University of Warmia and Mazury in Poland.

Benjamin Schwartz has joined AAK USA as Customer Innovation Application Specialist and is based in the Personal Care Lab of AAK’s West Coast Innovation Center in Richmond, California. Schwartz will support customer Co-Development through application process and product development with AAK’s plant-based functional emollients. He will also provide technical and regulatory support, enabling customers to understand and utilize the full benefits of AAK specialty vegetable fats & oils in all areas of this market. Schwartz brings over 12 years of extensive formulation and product development experience from contract manufacturing company, Columbia Cosmetics. Schwartz holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology from the University of Delaware, with a double minor in chemistry and philosophy.