Alpha Summit 2015 took place on August 4-5 in Southern Idaho to commemorate the recent expansion in alpha-lactalbumin production at the Jerome Cheese Company.

As the third-largest milk-producing state in the United States, Idaho has multiple dairy processing businesses growing at accelerated rates. This is true for Eden Prairie, Minn.-based Davisco, a business unit of Agropur Inc., which owns the Jerome Cheese Co.

Located in Jerome, Idaho, which is within a 50-mile radius of 70% of the state’s 550,000-plus dairy cows, the company manufactures cheese so it has whey to process into valued-added dairy ingredients in the drying facility adjacent to the cheese plant. The company manufactures a range of ingredients, including whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate (W.P.I.) and alpha-lactalbumin. Alpha-lactalbumin is the primary protein in human milk and Davisco produces a form that is more than 92% pure.

“On average, the Jerome Cheese plant processes 10 million lbs of milk into a wide variety of cheeses every day, 365 days of year,” said Mike Klein, director of whey operations.

To commemorate the recent expansion in alpha-lactalbumin production, the company hosted a group of researchers from around the world, representative of academia, industry, medicine and independent research centers, to the Alpha Summit 2015, which was held Aug. 4-5.

“This is the first time that this level of alpha-lactalbumin expertise was together in one spot,” said Polly Olson, vice-president of new business development, sales and marketing for Davisco. “We produce the purest alpha-lactalbumin in the world at our factory in Jerome. It’s appropriate that we hold the Alpha Summit in Southern Idaho, creating a think tank of scientists in dairy protein research throughout the world.”

The Jerome Cheese plant processes 10 million pounds of milk into a wide variety of cheeses. The whey is processed into an array of dry dairy ingredients, including one million pounds of alpha-lactalbumin annually, a 10-fold increase from just six months ago.

Juan Gonzalez, associate director-global infant category with Mead Johnson Nutrition, Evansville, Ind., commenced the Summit.

“‘Enabling’ technologies allow for the development of innovative ‘enabling’ ingredients that could lead to the development of new products with desirable attributes,” he said. “Davisco’s proprietary ion-exchange technology enabled the development of a high-purity alpha-lactalbumin ingredient with tremendous potential for application in nutritional products.”

Alpha-lactalbumin is present at a level of 0.02% to 0.03% in bovine milk, making isolation and purification a precise science. Its presence in human milk is much higher, about eight times more; thus, isolation and purification of alpha-lactalbumin enables the development of infant formula that more closely resembles human milk.

“Alpha-lactalbumin is an incredibly important ingredient in the continued advances being made in infant nutrition and serves as our launching pad for many more innovative whey protein products to come,” said Jon Davis, president of Davisco.