More to come in dairy ingredients

by David Phillips
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Dairy ingredients have come a long way from the not-so-distant past when the term applied to little more than butter fat, dried milk and cheese powders.

But if you think we’ve seen all there is to see in dairy ingredients, think again. There are numerous novel applications entering the market each year, and plenty of research that may lead to commercialization. Dairy ingredients are currently used in several food and beverage categories.

Those component parts of milk that include whey, lactose, casein and milk fats, provide a range of specific functions for baking, confections, meat and dairy processing, and even the pharmaceutical industry.

Whey protein helped create the energy bar and protein beverage sub segments, lactoferrin helps meat processors stunt the growth of pathogenic microbes and limit the negative effects of oxidation in pork shoulders and ground beef. Even lactose has well-established applications in bakery and confections.

Some new uses for dairy ingredients include specific functions for ice cream and commodity cheese, additional benefits for infant formulas, and sports performance and recovery products, plus a host of product enhancements for health and wellness, particularly for products aimed at the aging population, said Keith Schafer, vice-president of applications and technical development at Fonterra USA, Rosemont, Ill.

“Everything we do is about taking apart a bucket of milk to find out what all those different parts can do,” Mr. Schafer said. “We take apart milk and then put it back together into products that have all kind of new uses.”

Fonterra is a New Zealand-based cooperative that sells dairy products globally. Mr. Schafer said the company works with clients in the dairy sector and other food and beverage segments and designs for them dairy ingredients that provide specific attributes. The innovation is driven by the needs of those food manufacturers, and it relies primarily on the use of evolving separation technologies developed in conjunction with the membrane filtration and separation industries.

Mr. Schafer said all dairy ingredients have some strong attributes in common.

“Dairy has a very positive connotation,” he said. “They (dairy ingredients) are natural, and you can use the word ‘dairy’ on the label. It gives you a clean label. Membrane separation is a clean process in that no chemicals are involved.”

Whey: a success story

Dairy business veterans love to tell the success story of whey. They will happily explain how in the early 1960s, and 1970s, before cheese manufacturing operations began to consolidate, whey was a fairly superfluous byproduct of cheesemaking. It was fed to hogs, spread on farm fields and when all else failed, it was dumped into creeks. Environmental concerns about putting whey directly into the watersheds led to tighter regulation, while ongoing research indicated there was a lot of good protein in that watery stuff, and there were some feasible means of getting at it.

A couple decades later, every body builder in the world seemed to have learned that whey is the only protein that provides a complete set of the amino acids needed for optimum muscle mass gain. There are now hundreds of stock-keeping units of powdered drinks, and energy bars fortified with whey. There are ready-to-drink fruit-based whey drinks in sparkling hues, and a milk-based beverage called Muscle Milk, sits right next to the cans of Coke in the impulse cooler. Whey is one of the most common proteins used in dietary supplements, and it also is commonly sold as an alternative medicine.

Hundreds of studies have offered fairly strong credentials for whey. Its biological components, including lactoferrin, beta-lactoglobulin, alpha-lactalbumin, glycomacropeptide, and immunoglobulins, demonstrate a range of immune-enhancing properties. In addition, whey has the ability to act as an antioxidant, antihypertensive, antitumor, hypolipidemic, antiviral, antibacterial, and chelating agent.

“Consumer understanding has increased,” said Josh Hosking, senior business development and marketing manager for Fonterra USA. “But I think it’s not yet near the level it could be in the coming years.”

Mr. Hosking envisions an intersection of the fast-growing snack foods, functional foods and convenience arenas, and he believes dairy will have a major role, and that casein could soon begin to share the spotlight with whey.

“There seems to be more emphasis on smaller meals and an increased number of meal occasions,” he said. “Satiety, recovery, performance, and enhanced immunity, are going to be very important. We see huge growth potential associated with performance and recovery.”

Milk and meat bread

Since 2003, meat processors have had a green light from the U.S.D.A. for the use of lactoferrin, a protein that kills fungus, and inhibits bacteria and viruses from binding to host cells. It is a particularly desirable solution for those companies marketing natural, minimally processed meats.

Research conducted in 2006 by Dairy Management, Inc. into eight different meat products showed whey protein may significantly improve cook yield and reduce purge in processed meats. It also promotes clean slicing. Sensory results demonstrated that processed meats made with whey protein concentrate had few differences versus a control in regular fat products and some taste advantages in reduced fat varieties.

Other applications around the bend include using textured whey protein as a meat extender and replacer.

For those in the baking business concentrated and dry milk ingredients are used to form and stabilize emulsifications, enhance water-binding and machinability, and to improve structure, flavor, color and nutritive value of products, DMI said.

Ongoing dairy research

Ongoing dairy research includes genomic mapping and sequencing investigations and other molecular level research. A portion of this research takes place at research centers like the California Dairy Research Foundation, located at the University of California at Davis.

“In milk nature has given us the answer to many things, and now we have to figure out what the question is,” said Joe O’Donnell, the foundation’s executive director. “At Davis we are looking at milk as a survival strategy. Milk has come up with numerous ways to deliver complete nutrition at the point in life where there is the most energy expansion.”

Researchers have known for years that there was much to learn by breaking down the components of milk, but until recently they were limited by their analytical tools, Mr. O’Donnell said. But recently, the C.D.R.F. has begun using mass spectrometry technology to look more closely at those milk components and how they behave.

One example is a current group of queries regarding oligosaccharides, a group of milk- based carbohydrates, and how they bind with Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus bacterium to aid in the formation of digestive microflora. The studies are using human milk to determine how a newborn baby, which begins life with a sterile gastrointestinal tract, quickly develops a digestive and immunology system.

Scientists have known for some time that a certain subspecies of bacteria quickly colonize the gastrointestinal tracts of breast-fed infants, playing an important role not only in the digestive process but also in keeping out harmful microorganisms. These beneficial bacteria, known as Bifidobacterium longum supsp. infantis, feed on oligosaccharides in human milk that are nutritionally of no use to the baby.

In hopes of better understanding the molecular mechanisms and networks that make possible this functional alliance between the baby, the bacteria and the mother’s milk, a team led by scientists at Cal Davis recently published a sequencing of the genome — an analysis all of the genes and related DNA — of B. longum subsp. infantis.

Through sequencing the genome, the researchers identified gene clusters that appear to equip these bacteria to make use of oligosaccharides in human breast milk.

“We might eventually find a way to use oligosaccharides from cow’s milk to help adults restore their immunes systems,” Mr. O’Donnell said, noting that this is just one thread of research among many that may lead to further commercial applications for dairy ingredients.

Dairy Ingredients Symposium in March

The 12th Annual Dairy Ingredients Symposium will take place March 2-3, 2010, in San Francisco. Coordinated by the Dairy Products Technology Center at California Polytechnic State University, the two-day symposium is designed to provide an overview and update on the latest trends and issues in the marketing, science, manufacturing technology and application of dairy ingredients, including whey derived and milk derived concentrates and powders.

The symposium will include presentations on global and domestic markets for a variety of dairy ingredient products, numerous technical presentations on current research and industry best practices, and sessions on nutrition, and various business topics regarding product development and working with suppliers. In addition, the William C. Haines Dairy Science Award will be presented.

The seminar is produced in partnership with Dairy Management Inc., The U.S. Dairy Export Council and the California Dairy Research Foundation.

For more information visit

To register, contact Laurie Jacobson at (805) 305-5056 or e-mail

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