WATCH: FoodBytes! Chicago winner Capro-X tackles acid whey

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags FoodBytes! Acid whey

Capro-X - a spin-off from Cornell University - uses microbes to convert the organic compounds in acid whey into high-value flavor and fragrance ingredients such as caproic acid and caprylic acid, which are currently sourced from palm oil.

FoodNavigator-USA caught up with founder and CEO Juan Guzman, who picked up the ‘People’s Choice’ award at Rabobank’s FoodBytes! pitch competition​ in Chicago last month.

For every pound of milk used in traditional Greek yogurt manufacturing processes - where the whey is ‘strained’ (or centrifuged) off - only one-third ends up in the final product. The remaining liquid - which contains protein, lactose and milk minerals - is often referred to as ‘acid’ whey, which, unlike the ‘sweet’ whey generated in most cheese production, is not suitable for use in processed foods, and has created headaches for many manufacturers as it is too acidic to be handled by their on-site waste water treatment facilities.

Greek yogurt makers typically pay farmers to deal with it (it can be used in some animal feed supplements or as a liquid fertilizer, or fed into biodigesters), said Guzman, but it’s a major headache: “Acid whey can't just get poured down the drain, so we're looking at a million gallons of waste that has to be treated every single day."

Butyric acid, caproic acid and caprylic acid

He added: "Our fermentation is able to make a number of different products, particularly fatty acids, so we make butyric acid, caproic acid and caprylic acid, which today are sourced from palm oil and used by the specialty chemicals industry for flavor and fragrance markets in particular.

"We're also looking to expand opportunies by doing Non GMO natural new products with our ​[ingredients] as precurosrs, so we're making esters and triglycerides like MCT oils and looking to sell those to the specialty chemicals market also."

The FoodBytes! Chicago judges

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