The cottage cheese industry is turning back to direct vat cultures rather than the cheaper bulk starter method which replaced it as costs are reduced, according to Chr Hansen.
The only culture of choice for the dairy industry about 50 years ago was DVS (direct vat set) but when bulk starters developed about two decades later they were seen as a lower cost alternative, said Roy Riley, eastern region and fermented milk products manager at Chr Hansen.
Bulk starter begins with a small amount of the starter culture, which is then fermented at different stages. But now Riley says the industry is shifting to DVS, a highly concentrated frozen or freeze-dried dairy culture used for the direct inoculation of milk, because the cost differential is much smaller.
Riley told FoodNavigator-USA.com: "DVS cultures for hard cheese in the US have become very successful in the last five to seven years. We have been able to piggy-back that success into cottage cheese.
"There is more variability and inconsistency involved in producing bulk starter. It is more time consuming and labor intensive.
"DVS can be added directly into the cheese milk with minimal labor and it provides a lot of benefits."
Chr Hansen claims its Fresco series of cultures for cottage cheese has sparked the international conversion from bulk starter production of cottage cheese to DVS technology, particularly in North America.
It boasts that 20 percent of North American cottage cheese is made with the third generation of its Fresco cultures, which are delivered in frozen form in large bags making it easy to add one bag per vat.
Riley said that the biggest driver for the success of the Fresco program has been its strong durability and resistance to bacteriophage. This can kill all the cultures that are in a vat and the content has to be thrown away.
He added: "With bulk starter you are making up a culture that lasts the whole day so you have to stick with that culture.
"DVS is more flexible because you can change cultures around immediately and you have more consistency."
The advantage of rotating the cultures more quickly is that bacteriophage is kept under control.
The move away from bulk starter has also been seen elsewhere. Danisco recently announced it has invested $9m in its Wisconsin cultures plant to expand capacity and meet the growing demand for low-cost frozen direct vat inoculants (DVI) cheese cultures.
The ingredients company said it has experienced strong demand for its frozen DVI cultures Choozit range, which it developed as an easier, cheaper and more reliable alternative to traditional bulk starter cultures.
Danisco originally developed frozen cultures for making hard cheeses, but last December produced cultures for application in stabilized soft cheeses. Its new cultures for parmesan and cottage cheese are the latest culture launches.
Cottage cheese accounts for 5 percent of the world's cheese production. The two main markets for cottage cheese are Eastern Europe and North America, where it is a part of the daily menu and makes up 12 percent of all cheese.
Chr Hansen is a global biotechnology company that provides ingredients to the food industry. It said that one quarter of the world's cottage cheese is made with a DVS concept and it claims to be the largest in the global DVS cottage cheese market.