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Recession raises direct-to-vat cottage cheese culture sales

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 20-Apr-2009
Last updated on 20-Apr-2009 at 17:33 GMT

Chr. Hansen has said that sales of its direct-to-vat cottage cheese cultures have been boosted by the global recession, as manufacturers seek ways to raise productivity.

The company said that 30 percent of North American cottage cheese manufacturers are now using its frozen Fresco direct vat set (DVS) cultures – a jump of 10 percentage points on last year. It claims that the reason for this is that DVS technology reduces wastage and increases yield – important attributes at a time when manufacturers are making cost reduction a top priority.

Marketing director of food cultures and enzymes at Chr. Hansen North America Roy Riley told FoodNavigator-USA.com: “New technology has let us narrow the cost efficiency between direct set and bulk starters…Because of the recession, everybody is being cost conscious. They [DVS cultures] cost a little bit more up front, but…if you can increase your yield without increasing your labor, you really need to take a look.”

Back from bulk

DVS has not always been an option associated with value, and the current international swing away from bulk starters takes cheese starter methods full circle. Fifty years ago, DVS was the only culture of choice for the dairy industry, but when bulk starters developed about two decades later they were seen as a lower cost alternative.

DVS systems, such as the Fresco starters, are designed to combat bacteriophage – an age-old problem in cheese making that kills bacteria, thereby slowing the production process – by enabling manufacturers to rotate cultures. Traditional bulk starters are less easy to rotate, so it is said that the risk is higher.

Increased yield

Riley said that although minimizing phage is the main driver behind the Fresco cultures’ popularity in North America, customers are also attracted by increased product consistency and yield.

He said: “The Fresco cultures improve the cheesemake consistency and dependability which allows the manufacturer to process the cheese on time. This minimizes labor overrun costs due to slow vats and keeps the production schedule on time throughout the day. Moreover, the Fresco program has been proven to increase curd yield an average of 3.3 percent per vat thus increasing plant throughput using the same labor and equipment costs.”

Wider market move

While global cottage cheese sales have been declining at a rate of 1-2 percent a year, Chr. Hansen said its Fresco series of cultures has seen a global sales increase of 38 percent in the past year alone. And the move away from bulk starter has also been seen elsewhere.

Last year, Danisco 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.

Cottage cheese accounts for five percent of the world’s cheese production and North America is the world’s largest market, where cottage cheese makes up 12 percent of the continent’s total cheese consumption.

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