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Hydrocolloids show the 'whey' to cheaper dairy drinks

By Stephen Daniells , 12-Apr-2010
Last updated on 07-May-2010 at 14:08 GMT

Food gums like gellan gum and pectin may hold the key to success in the growing market for whey-based beverages, as manufacturers look to offer dairy beverages at competitive prices.

Whey has long been viewed as a secondary product within the dairy industry, used simply as a means of feed for animals and not as an added-value ingredient. That, however, is changing, particularly with the impact of high milk costs on the industry.

According to a 2008 report by 3A Business Consulting, the market for ingredients such as whey protein concentrate was expected to experience three to five per cent annual growth between 2007 and 2010.

Speaking to FoodNavigator, Bruce Hein, positioning manager, marketing-EMEA for hydrocolloid supplier CP Kelco, said interest in whey-based drinks is increasing around the globe, be it in Eastern or Western Europe, or in Asia Pacific.

“Companies want to find new value added ways to use their whey, and whey beverages are an excellent way,” said Hein. “As far as finished product applications, both neutral pH and acid pH beverages are showing excellent potential for growth.”

CP Kelco does not supply or manufacture whey, but Hein noted that company leverages its expertise with hydrocolloids to provide solutions for whey-based beverages. “I would say that CP Kelco is at the forefront in this field by offering a complete range of stabilizers and texturizers for whey based beverages - both neutral and acid pH.”

Hein also stressed that the company has enjoyed fruitful collaboration with a Danish company called Lact Innovation.

Proof in the pudding

The type of hydrocolloid used depends on the pH of the beverage and the required stability and mouthfeel, with whey based beverages formulated using gellan fum (Kelcogel), pectin (Genu) or cellulose gum (Cekol) as stabilizers, said Hein.

A neutral-pH chocolate milk-type drink can be used to illustrate the issue, noted the company, with a whey drink based on 0.5 per cent protein, compared with 3.4 per cent protein when milk is used. For milk, carrageenan can be used as this requires casein to form a fluid gel network to stabilize the cocoa. However, “carrageenan is not the ideal stabilizer for a neutral pH chocolate whey drink”, said Hein, since whey contains no casein.

Gellan gum, on the other hand, “can form a fluid gel network independent of casein/proteins, thus, providing excellent stabilization of cocoa or other insolubles”, said Hein. Options also exist for acid pH whey beverages, he said, with pectin or cellulose gum acting as protective colloids to inhibit the aggregation of protein. The end results is a smooth and stable beverage, he added.

“Any type of whey proteins can be used,” said Hein. “[In our test applications] we have used a standard whey powder, however, these formulations can be adjusted to use liquid whey, WPC or whey protein isolates. In addition, we are also seeing interest in combinations of whey plus milk and whey plus yoghurt,” he added.

Stephen Daniells' trip to CP Kelco was funded by the company.

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