Editor’s note: DairyMinded provides perspectives on industry opportunities and challenges, as well as on the work of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy® and Dairy Research Institute®. This article was posted by Bill Graves M.S., M.B.A. in Science & Research
What consumers want, dairy technology delivers. That’s what continues to amaze me about our work with the scientists at the Dairy Research Centers around the country who continue to innovate to meet consumer needs. The beauty and genius of dairy product innovation has never been more evident than in the use of membrane filtration technology to develop new value-added fluid milk products that preserve the goodness of milk to help meet the health and wellness needs of today’s consumers.
Milk is already widely recognized as a nutrient rich food, but membrane filtration technology, developed by scientists at Dairy Research Centers over the last 20 years, gives dairy processors the ability to fractionate and concentrate the many components milk has to offer, such as its texture, taste, protein and calcium content, and to remove lactose, if desired, to meet specific consumer needs. Essentially, this technology takes milk apart and puts it back together again to form a new value-added product.
“The new technology works like a molecular sieve,” explained Dr. Shakeel Ur-Rehman, who worked with researchers from the Dairy Products Technology Center (DPTC) at California Polytechnic State University (CalPoly), San Luis Obispo, on the patented membrane technology that was used by Select Milk Producers in the development of a novel, filtered milk called Mootopia that was commercialized in 2004. As he told Food Business News, “There are holes in the membrane that allow certain materials to go through and we can customize the membrane and process conditions to separate or keep whatever we choose.” Dr. Ur-Rehman, now the Chief Science Officer for Fair Life LLC, has overseen the development of other milk-based beverages using this patented technology, such as Core Power and Fairlife. Through its joint venture with Fairlife LLC, Coca-Cola will leverage its unparalleled distribution system and make milk a part of its powerful marketing and innovation engine – which provides the potential to change the category with new, value-added products.
These new milk products are welcome news to consumers who are looking for foods and beverages with clean labels – that is minimally processed foods with short, clear ingredient lists. According to a NPD Datamonitor 2013 survey, 27% of U.S. consumers say they find “A product that is formulated with the lowest number of ingredients possible" to be very appealing, and an additional 45% say they find it somewhat appealing. Phil Tong, Ph.D., Professor at Cal Poly State University's Dairy Science Department and research leader at the DPTC, says membrane filtration technology opens the door for creative ways to deliver customized value-added dairy foods and beverages that weren’t possible before.
In addition, Dairy Management, Inc. is working with and through marketplace companies to ignite innovation in fluid milk and milk based beverages to meet the growing demands of both foreign and U.S. consumers. We’ve initiated a robust, multi-year fluid milk initiative designed to support and advance innovation efforts across the supply chain.
The future of fluid milk looks bright as the dairy industry continues to develop additional wellness products that use the goodness of milk. Further research concentrating on milk-based beverages, as part of a diet higher in protein, may identify health benefits, including satiety and weight management opportunities to support the next wave of fluid milk innovation.