Guest Columns

Dairy Research

The future of dairy ingredients

John Lucey

John Lucey, director of the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, contributes this column for Cheese Market News®.

When it comes to innovation, the dairy foods industry continues to flourish. From new flavored cheeses to unique dairy ingredients, the benefits of dairy are now available in a plethora of delicious products. In particular, the past 30 years has seen tremendous innovation in dairy ingredients, a trend that was a theme at the 2017 Dairy Ingredients Symposium in February. There, industry members gathered to discuss the past, present and future of dairy ingredients including the many exciting new ingredients that have appeared on the U.S. dairy scene. Given this recent event, and the excitement surrounding this industry, it seems appropriate to celebrate these accomplishments in dairy ingredients and reflect on where we’ve been as an industry as well as where the next great innovation could take us.

In terms of innovation, research has been at the forefront of this positive trend in the dairy ingredient sector. For example, as nutrition research was highlighting how dairy proteins helped with satiety and muscle synthesis, processing research was creating higher protein versions of milk powders that were more suitable for these new opportunities. Whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, individual whey proteins like lactoferrin, permeate, milk protein concentrate and milk protein isolate are just a few examples of the successful specialty dairy ingredients that grew out of these efforts.

More specifically, however, these success stories and the overall success of this industry came about due to a few critical efforts related to research. First, the research on processing methods such as membrane filtration and chromatography allowed the industry to economically manufacture these new ingredients, while research into functional properties such as heat stability and solubility allowed researchers to understand their chemistry in various food applications. Secondly, the development of high-quality applications for these ingredients helped to make these dairy products, and their benefits, available to consumers. Additionally, nutrition research highlighted the excellent quality of dairy proteins helping consumers to understand the benefits of these products, eventually leading to a greater demand, new markets and expanded export opportunities.

Going forward, there are many exciting opportunities for continued success in the dairy ingredients industry.

For example, new product research is continuing to showcase the almost infinite uses of dairy ingredients.

Permeate is an excellent example of this innovative work. Once thought to be just leftover minerals, researchers began adding permeate to various food applications, finding that its addition imparted a savory and salty note. Thanks to this discovery, permeate is now considered an excellent replacement for salt in a variety of baked goods, soups, etc. In fact, significant amounts of permeate are now exported around the world. Other new dairy ingredient concepts mentioned at the symposium include soluble casein isolate, modified whey proteins and beta-casein concentrates.

Currently being studied at CDR, soluble casein isolate is compositionally similar to traditional caseinates and has excellent heat stability, emulsification and whipping properties. At 90-percent protein and low levels of lactose and calcium, soluble casein isolate is an excellent choice for bakery, creamer and beverage products.

Similarly, modified whey protein or conjugated proteins, another technology developed at CDR, increases heat stability and acid stability and reduces allergenicity. Additionally, beta-casein is an important product for the future as it is a primary type of casein in human milk. Once difficult to isolate, new technology has made it easier to obtain beta-casein and utilize it in nutritional products such as infant formulas and in high-end pharmaceutical applications. Nutrition research will continue to open doors for new opportunities such as recent studies indicating the potential benefit dairy ingredients may have on the microbiome (bacterial microflora) present in the human digestive tract. Preliminary results, which were presented at the symposium, indicate that dairy ingredients with high calcium levels may positively impact our microbiome and thereby improve our overall health.

Finally, the innovation taking place in the applications and nutrition research sectors would not be possible without ongoing innovation in the technology and processing sectors. From improved membrane systems and new drying technologies to new methods of water recovery, these technologies will allow for continued growth and improvement in the quality of dairy ingredients. In particular, new membrane developments were discussed at length including forward osmosis and charged membranes. These technologies of the future have the potential to reduce processing costs while charged membranes could also improve our ability to perform milk protein fractionation.

From dairy ingredient research and applications to improvements in processing technologies, the dairy ingredients industry should be proud of its accomplishments over the last 30 years. Though it has been a team effort among industry, food scientists and nutritionists, many of these success stories are thanks to investments in research by dairy farmers. Taking stock of the last 30 years as well as the future of dairy ingredients, it’s clear that such investments and partnerships will need to continue in order to meet the growing needs of the nutritional sector as well as support exciting export opportunities.


The views expressed by CMN’s guest columnists are their own opinions and do not necessarily reflect those of Cheese Market News®.

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