Patent watch: Calcium-rich acid whey has potential in functional beverages, says inventor

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Patent watch, acid whey has potential in functional beverages

Related tags: Cheese, Milk

Acid whey - a byproduct of Greek yogurt production that has been causing headaches for manufacturers - could be transformed “from a liability into an asset”, says a dairy scientist who has filed a patent covering beverages that cash in on acid whey’s “unique nutritional benefits”.

Wisconsin-based consultant Larry Bell was speaking to FoodNavigator-USA after his patent application (#20140335226​) exploring novel value-added applications for acid whey was published.

For every pound of milk used in traditional Greek yogurt manufacturing processes - where the whey is strained off - only one-third ends up in the final product. The liquid is often referred to as ‘acid whey’, which, unlike the ‘sweet whey’ generated in hard cheese production, is typically something that generates costs rather than revenues for manufacturers.

An opportunity to turn a byproduct from a liability into an asset

However, acid whey is a good source of electrolytes (sodium and potassium) and an excellent source of bone-healthy minerals calcium and phosphorous, the bioavailability of which is boosted owing to the low pH (typically less than 5.5, but often around 4.6), said Bell.

“Sweet whey has 47mg of calcium per 100g; acid whey has more than 100mg. Similarly, sweet whey has 46mg of phosphorus; acid whey has 78mg​.”(Levels of potassium and sodium are similar in sweet and acid whey.)

While beverage makers can of course buy these nutrients and add them to their products directly rather than using acid whey, dairy companies that generate acid whey have a vested interest into trying to transform it into a source of revenue, said Bell, who is talking to a range of people in the industry about how his invention might be commercialized.

He added: “It’s an opportunity to turn a byproduct from a liability into an asset. Developing a profitable outlet for acid whey would increase the overall profitability of the production of Greek Yogurt, cottage cheese and cream cheese, as well as solving a disposal problem.

 “Fluid acid whey is not processed into other products because it is difficult to dry, the flavor is not desirable, and the high mineral level adds to the salty flavor. Furthermore, the high mineral content of acid whey can result in the formation of an undesirable mineral coating on the equipment which requires extra cleaning to remove it.”

Sports drinks, nutritional juice drinks, bone health drinks

His patent describes several beverages including a bone health drink; a nutritional drink combining fluid acid whey and up to 50% apple, orange or grape juice; and a sports drink containing fluid acid whey (80-99% by weight) plus sugar or sweeteners and flavors that can “aid athletes in replacing their electrolytes​”.

He added: “A nutritional beverage can also be made by adding fluid acid whey, in dry powder form, to a fruit juice. ​[For example] 7% by weight of fluid acid whey in dry powder form and 93% by weight Mott's Apple Juice was mixed to form a nutritional beverage high in calcium.”

Finally, he has also been experimenting with using acid whey in gelatin-based nutritional desserts

For full details, read the patent application:  Nutritious beverage formed from fluid acid whey and a method of forming a nutritious beverage by combining fluid acid whey and a juice

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1 comment

An old whey to go???

Posted by Paul Jelen,

What else is new? How can anyone file a patent on what is a general knowledge with many proven industrial failures? All these ideas can be found in the books and papers on whey.
Cheers to all
P. Jelen

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