Donna Berry

Dairy ingredients have application in practically every food and beverage category. You don't believe me? Well, I highly encourage you to take a lengthy tour of a grocery store, reading ingredient statements in every food product category. Or, just check out your cabinets and refrigerator at home.

For the moment, though, let me show you some new products that have been introduced in the past few months, all of which are made with dairy ingredients. Some of them will really surprise you.

I believe the biggest shocker comes from overseas. Netherlands-based dairy giant Campina very recently introduced an innovative alternative to meat that is based on dairy proteins. Called Valess®, the product is Campina's response to the many meat eaters in the Netherlands who want to eat less meat and stay healthy, provided an easy, but more importantly, delicious substitute is available.

Campina says that Valess is prepared from low-fat milk. Through the addition of natural fiber, Valess is described as having a surprisingly firm structure, similar to that of meat or chicken. Valess can be cooked in exactly the same way as meat. All varieties are quickly and easily prepared in a frying pan, oven or microwave. Containing only 4% fat (9% for crumbed varieties) and relatively more healthy fatty acids than meat, Valess is also cholesterol-free, and rich in calcium and high-quality protein.

"For me, Valess is proof of Campina's innovative strength," says Piet Hilarides, group director at Campina. "Innovation is one of the spearheads in Campina's growth strategy, and something we continually put into practice. We develop and market distinctive products, thus adding sustainable value to milk.

"We claim that Campina is an entrepreneurial co-operative and Valess proves it," Hilarides notes. "Once again we have shown our entrepreneurial spirit by opening up an entirely new market segment. Our researchers track down the healthy building blocks and valuable properties of milk. Then our product developers and marketers respond to consumer needs with the introduction of new products. Valess is a good example of this: A healthy, delicious and easy alternative to meat. A product that fits in with the trend towards a healthy and sensible diet. And, ultimately, Valess is a product with which we really do add value to milk... for consumers, for customers, for ourselves and for our member-farmers."

I told you that you would be surprised. Interestingly, Campina is a dairy manufacturer, just like many of you reading this. Maybe, you too can be in the meat substitute business some day. The opportunities are infinite when working with a wonder food such as dairy.

Now, let's get a little bit closer to home and look at products made with dairy ingredients.

New Balance® Satisfaction™ meal bars contain lactose, while Balance Trail Mix energy bars include casein, calcium caseinate and whey protein isolate.

Bars are popular, and its not just energy and meal replacement ones that rely on dairy ingredients. Barbara's® Bakery Puffins® Cereal & Milk Bars are coated with a yogurt icing that contains milk protein isolate and whey, in addition to yogurt. The bars also are formulated with whey protein isolate.

Sauces and soups are often formulated with one or more dairy ingredients. Bertolli® pasta sauce is based on fresh cream and also contains dried whey. Wolfgang Puck's® Classic Chicken with Broccoli Soup contains whey and includes flavor made with cream and dried whey. Progresso® Roasted Chicken Rotini is made with dried fermented whey.

Ready-to-eat shelf-stable meals also rely on dairy ingredients for various functions ranging from flavor development to viscosity and emulsion stability. For example, Homestyle Express® now offers Asian Style Selections™ Beef Teriyaki, which contains dried whey.

When carbohydrates are reduced in grain-based products, they are often replaced by protein-based ingredients, including dairy ones. The Health Valley® brand has a line of cookies called Carb Fit™ that rely on whey protein concentrate to achieve a quality product with only seven net grams of carbohydrates per serving.

Dairy ingredient suppliers offer a variety of whey protein concentrates that can be used in lower-carbohydrate baking to replace flour. Such ingredients bind water, which results in improved dough consistency.

As you can see, all types of dairy ingredients have application in all types of foods. The opportunities for dairy are infinite.