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Dairy ingredients drive new product innovations to meet consumer needs

Editor’s note: Welcome to Ingredient Innovation, CMN’s new segment exploring recent innovations and trends in the dairy ingredients sector. For this segment, we will profile a leader in the ingredients industry as well as share updates on mergers and acquisitions and new offerings for cheese and dairy in ingredients — where flavor begins.

By Trina La Susa

Photo courtesy of Chr. Hansenl

PREMIUM CULTURES — Chr. Hansen offers YOFLEX Premium cultures to provide a creamy texture with mild taste in yogurt, as well as NU-TRISH Premium to create probiotic yogurt. Becca Henrickson, marketing manager, says these two ingredient solutions are known as “the Perfect Partner” to naturally achieve indulgent texture, premium taste and a cleaner label.
Photo courtesy of Idaho Milk Products
FRESH & FUNCTIONAL — Idaho Milk Products’ fresh, functional milk ingredients are tailored to meet the desire to increase protein in ready-to-drink beverages, yogurts and other products. The company’s Milk Innovation Center, pictured here, provides customers the ability to work directly with its R&D team.

MADISON, Wis. — U.S. consumers are looking for new products that contribute to better health and nutrition. To meet these needs, new products utilizing dairy ingredients are growing — from dairy proteins for promoting muscle health, weight management, healthy aging and/or immunity, to milk permeates that provide hydration.

“We are always discovering new health benefits associated with the components of milk. Dairy protein nutrition research over the last 15-plus years has contributed to the growth in new products targeted towards health,” says Kimberlee “KJ” Burrington, director of training, education and technical development at American Dairy Products Institute (ADPI), Elmhurst, Illinois. “Research on milkfat has helped to make butter popular again by letting us know that butter consumption isn’t a cause of cardiovascular disease and even helped with the use of coproducts, such as whey protein phospholipid concentrate, in infant formula for cognitive development.”

Dairy ingredient product research over the past 50 years has helped to create new and better ingredients with improved quality, functionality and flavor, Burrington says. Looking at dairy ingredients being utilized across markets, nonfat dry milk currently tops the charts with 2.45 billion pounds utilized across all product categories, according to the 2019 ADPI Dairy Products Utilization & Production Trends. When it comes to new product introductions utilizing dairy proteins, sports nutrition had the most new product introductions with more than 5,200 in the past year, according to recent data from Innova Market Insights.

• Increased product functionality

Idaho Milk Products, Jerome, Idaho, has seen an uptick in consumer demand for proteins as a way to improve immunity, and dairy proteins are leading the pack, according to Chenchaiah Marella, the company’s vice president of research and product development.

“While the public has become acquainted with whey protein, they haven’t been exposed as much to milk proteins — milk protein concentrate (MPC) and milk protein isolate (MPI),” Marella says. “Both of these have whey protein and micellar casein protein in the same ratio as occurs naturally in milk.”

Idaho Milk Products produces MPC and MPI using an ultrafiltration process to separate out the proteins from the lactose and minerals without chemicals or high heat, which are often used in the production of most whey and plant proteins, Marella notes. The process leads to improved hydration, dispersibility, solubility, taste and texture.

“MPC and MPI work well in products such as protein bars, ready-to-mix shakes, ready-to-drink beverages, protein balls and other products for sports nutrition, elderly nutrition and weight management,” Marella says. “You’ll also find them in high-protein ice cream, yogurt, processed cheese, puddings, pancake/waffle mixes, cereals, high-protein coffee drinks, flavored milk drinks, coffee creamers and confectionery. Nutritionally speaking, they are a complete protein with all nine essential amino acids and the highest digestibility score available.”

Based in Denmark with U.S. headquarters in Milwaukee, Chr. Hansen develops and produces cultures, enzymes and probiotic ingredients to improve food and health functionalities in dairy products. The company’s product innovation taps into its collection of more than 40,000 microbial strains, also referred to as “good bacteria.”

“Consumers have increased awareness in how dairy ingredients affect their digestive health. Many are shifting their buying patterns to incorporate ‘lactose-free’ dairy into their diet,” says Becca Henrickson, marketing manager for food cultures and enzymes, Chr. Hansen Inc. “This can be a challenge for dairy providers who are looking to appeal to this subset of the population that are concerned about digestive health but still want great tasting products.”

Chr. Hansen assists manufacturers in meeting the consumer demand for improved digestibility by providing a variety of lactase enzyme solutions that naturally break down the natural sugars from milk to manufacture lactose-free products.

Meanwhile, in the cheesemaking process, cultures and coagulants are the essential ingredients that turn milk into cheeses. Henrickson notes the quality and type of cultures and coagulants are the determining factor in the texture, taste and functionality of any cheese or ingredient.

“At Chr. Hansen, we have more than 145 years of experience in serving the cheese industry, and therefore offer entire ranges of microbial cultures, enzymes and coagulants that assist cheesemakers from craft to large-scale production,” Henrickson says. “Our newest product on the market for flavorful cheeses is our SpiceIT Mplus, a microbial lipase that takes part of the range of animal and microbial lipases called SpiceIT.”

Henrickson notes that 88% of U.S. consumers mention taste as the main reason for eating cheese (Mintel 2020), and this range of Chr. Hansen lipase enzymes allows cheesemakers to differentiate their product and offer new taste options that also fulfill religious and vegetarian requirements. For example, she says, the SpiceIT MPlus microbial lipase is a preservative-free way to liberate a higher amount of free fatty acids during Provolone ripening to increase the intensity and improve flavor.

Similar to cheese, the standard of identity for yogurt relies on the use of cultures. With an increased attention to health and nutrition, Henrickson says consumers are looking for dairy products that can sustain and nourish their body. She notes that sugar reduction is top-of-mind for consumers today, especially since the recent addition of the “added sugars” line on food’s nutrition labels. Chr. Hansen provides natural microbial solutions to reduce the added sugars line while maintaining the perceived sweetness of the product, she says. These can be paired with YoFlex Premium cultures, which provide a creamy texture with mild taste in yogurt.

“From recent surveys, we know that increased nutrition and decreased sugar are top-of-mind for yogurt shoppers, and Chr. Hansen offers a range of solutions to meet these needs,” Henrickson says. “This includes cultures that provide quality taste and texture, functionality with our NU-TRISH range comprising the most documented probiotics and enzymes that create lactose-free and reduce added sugars. Being committed to improving food and health, we have also launched a patented yogurt culture to reduce added sugar under the SWEETY brand.”

According to Mintel, 29% of U.S. cheese consumers consider additive/preservative-free as an important factor when choosing what cheese to eat. On the other hand, Datassential indicates about three out of four Americans are concerned about food waste. Henrickson says new microbial food cultures like Chr. Hansen’s FreshQ and fermentation can delay the growth of unwanted contaminants, removing the need for preservatives and minimizing food waste naturally.

“Consumers’ increased awareness of product labels has brands across categories considering more and more ways to be transparent in their use of ingredients and to find natural solutions to product challenges,” Henrickson says. “Fermentation and the use of specific cultures and enzymes can often address product sustainability and transparency goals, but is also being utilized in interesting ways to make new categories.

“The pandemic has given consumers a heightened awareness of nutrition and how what they eat and drink affects their health and immunity,” she adds, noting this is one reason why global product launches with probiotic claims have increased 34% from Q2 and Q3 2019-2020 across categories.

• Cleaner labels

Food and beverage formulators can find it challenging to develop products that meet the ever-increasing desire for clean labels while also meeting demand for greater nutritional value, better flavor and improved mouthfeel. Dairy ingredients with unique functionalities are playing a key role in the development of new product innovations to meet these needs.

“Dairy ingredients provide a smooth, creamy texture and light milky taste. Dairy proteins can eliminate the need for flavor masking agents commonly used in plant protein sources, which leads to cleaner labels. Milk proteins are superior at providing gel set for yogurts without the use of stabilizers,” Marella says. “This helps consumers experience superior smoothness and creaminess they expect in yogurts without the additional ingredients necessary with other proteins.”

For example, Marella notes that milk permeate can add salty notes with less sodium. Additionally, galacto-oligosaccharides, a product derived from milk permeate, can act as a sweetener and fiber with potential for no added sugar claim. Galacto-oligosaccharides have been used in infant food products but is beginning to reach into mainstream food and beverage, he says.

• Next generation ingredients

The next generation of milk ingredients such as mineral-reduced MPCs, cross-linked proteins, modified whey proteins, pressure-treated milk proteins and more are fueling the new innovations in formulated food and beverage products, according to Marella.

Idaho Milk Products offers IdaPlus 1085 and IdaPlus Micellar Casein, ingredients created using a processing technology that reduces the mineral content in milk proteins. Marella says milk proteins with reduced mineral content help conceive clean label products, add more protein to beverages and yogurts, and replace caseinates in current formulations, among other functionalities.

“I think we will start to see more customized ingredients to fit specific applications,” Burrington says. “We already have milk proteins and whey proteins that are designed for specific types of beverages for things like improved solubility, heat stability and/or clarity. We will also see more use of individual proteins like lactoferrin in products targeting immunity or alpha-lactalbumin used for sleep-promoting supplements.

“It always takes time for research to translate into a finished product that a consumer can find on the market. As long as we continue to support research on dairy ingredients, the product portfolio and the health benefits will grow,” she adds.

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