Food manufacturers have been increasingly reformulating to reduce sodium, saturated fat and sugar on the back of consumer demand for healthier products, but the challenge has been to retain acceptability of flavor and mouthfeel, as well as the same functional performance of the original product.
Land O’Lakes hopes to tap into this trend with a process cheese that contains 50 percent less fat and 35 percent less sodium than traditional process cheese. But the company said its real success has been in producing the right texture and melting characteristics.
Land O’Lakes scientist at the company’s Ingredient Solutions Division Paul Hughes told FoodNavigator-USA.com: “Creating a cheese with the appropriate melt profile is a bit of an art.”
He explained that one of the main benefits of process cheese is that it can have a wide range of melt profiles.
“These typically fall into one of four different categories,” he said. “No-melt, restricted- or high-melt, standard or regular melt, and easy-melt. Different melt profiles are achieved through modification of emulsifiers, pH and process conditions.”
The company said it can customize the melt profile of its cheese to meet customer requirements, as well as color, flavor and pack size. It comes as a block that has enough body to be grated or sliced and is intended “for use in any formulation that traditional process cheese could be used in, such as prepared foods applications and soups, sauces or dressings.”
Hughes said that the company achieved the lower sodium and fat profile through a “proprietary combination of reduced fat cheese and milk, as well as lower sodium emulsifiers to achieve the current fat and sodium reductions, as well as the increased calcium level.”
The company claims that 100g of the cheese provides 90 percent of the USDA recommended daily value of calcium, as opposed to the 60 percent provided by most standard process cheeses. This allows manufacturers to claim “good source of calcium” on pack as well as “reduced sodium” and “reduced fat”, depending on the finished product formulation.
In terms of how manufacturers would list the cheese on an ingredient panel, Hughes said: “Manufacturers can cite “process cheese” on their finished good label – as opposed to a process cheese product, or process cheese food. This is not an imitation or analog cheese.”
The FDA’s rules governing the labeling of different cheese and cheese products are strict, and process cheese must contain a maximum of 43 percent moisture and at least 47 percent milk fat by definition. Process cheese product is a process cheese that does not meet these requirements, while process cheese food is a variation that may have whey solids, dry milk or anhydrous milk solids added.