Gonca Pasin, Ph.D. is the Executive Director at the California Dairy Research Foundation, Davis Calif. Geoffrey Smithers, Ph.D. is a Food and Dairy Industry Consultant based in Melbourne, Australia. Phillip Tong, Ph.D. is a Professor of Dairy Science at California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo, Calif.

By Gonca Pasin,

Geoffrey W. Smithers,

and Phillip S. Tong

The 15th Annual Dairy Ingredients Symposium was held this past Feb. 21-22 in San Francisco. This two-day event was organized by the Cal Poly Dairy Products Technology Center (DPTC) and mainly funded by the California Dairy Research Foundation (CDRF) with symposium sponsorship support from the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC). Dr. Pasin, the Executive Director of CDRF proclaimed that “since its modest beginnings in the late '90s in Shell Beach, Calif., this symposium has grown into a ‘must attend’ event on the annual dairy calendar.”

The symposium provided the opportunity for the 155 attendees from 21 states and five countries to gain insights on the science, technology and business of dairy ingredients. The panel of industry experts and scientific researchers provided 20 oral presentations, an industry panel discussion and technical posters covering topics ranging from emerging dairy markets and future global consumption trends to innovative methods for better quality control and production of existing and new lines of dairy ingredients.

The keynote speaker, Steve Maddox of Maddox Dairy and the National Dairy Board opened the symposium from a dairy producer’s perspective. He highlighted the need for continued investment in innovation and research to ensure that key opportunities, such as new whey and permeate products, and their market potential, will be properly captured. Such an approach will allow the U.S. to better compete with other global dairy-exporting ‘superpowers’ while also generating less waste in the process.

Future trends and opportunities for dairy ingredients

Alan Reed, Executive Vice President from Dairy Management Inc. followed with a presentation that further emphasized the necessity of creative thinking to predict and drive integration of current and future technologies into the marketing, shopping and purchasing experiences of consumers. Mr. Reed pointed to new opportunities and niche markets for dairy drawing an analogy with “micro-brews” in which the uniqueness and craftsmanship of micro-brewed beer-making could be extended to micro-batched dairy products.
Despite Hippocrates' two-millennia-old statement to “let food be thy medicine,” navigating the terrain between innovation and government regulation can be a tricky task for "medical foods." However, the rewards for capturing emerging medical markets involving novel and natural ingredients may be well worth the risks. The presentation by Craig J. Schroeder, Ph.D., Senior Director of Innovation for Dairy Farmers of America was given by Dr. Phillip Tong and emphasized opportunities in the medical sector with several uses of dairy products for optimal health and disease prevention. Dr. Tong finished Dr. Schroeder’s talk with an insightful reminder that while much of the dairy innovation will come from within the industry some will also come from research and technologies adapted and adopted from outside the industry.

Implications of the Food Safety Modernization Act

Allen Sayler, a managing partner from the Center for Food Safety & Regulatory Solutions spoke on the topic that has many in the food industry both applauding and a little nervous, depending upon their situation. His talk focused on the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 in which the FDA will begin to impose new and strict requirements on dairy handling and processing beginning in December 2014 for large dairy plants and December 2015 for small dairy plants. These new regulations are aimed at reducing the number of future food safety outbreaks, but potentially at a huge monetary cost to the industry, and to dairy consumers. Mr. Sayler’s talk detailed many of the new regulations and good manufacturing practices along with the FSMA-required “performance controls” which will likely have many facility managers, safety officers and records keepers regularly running to their manuals in order to be compliant and avoid being fined for violations.
Innovative technologies and solutions

The symposium continued with presentations focusing on the reduction of "fouling" during dairy processing and production. Fouling is a buildup of unwanted material on heat and mass transfer surfaces such as stainless steel machinery that can cause increases in production time and decreases in production output, therefore increasing total productions costs.

Julie Goddard, Ph.D. from the Department of Food Science at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst delivered a compelling presentation on the use of nickel and fluoropolymer coatings for stainless steel components used in dairy processing. Dr. Goddard introduced surface polymer technology that could be used to coat stainless steel components in effect enabling them to repel dairy biomolecules and reduce fouling by changing the surface reactions between the biomolecules and the stainless steel.
Sanjeev Anand, Ph.D., Associate Professor in Dairy Science from South Dakota State University, emphasized the detrimental effects of bacterial biofilm fouling of membranes used in milk and whey processing and revealed a novel and multi-faceted approach to cleaning these membranes incorporating a sequential process of alkali, acid, enzymes, surfactants and sanitizers to better breakdown the biofilms.

Since the late 1960s, many dairy products have been concentrated using various semi-permeable membranes, which allow components to be separated on the basis of their molecular size and shape. Mark Etzel, Ph.D., Professor from the Department of Food Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison discussed the use of negatively and positively charged ultrafiltration membranes as an innovative approach to both concentrate and fractionate dairy proteins. Negatively charged ultrafiltration membranes provide a highly productive (protein retention, flux improvements) alternative to conventional membranes for the manufacture of Milk Protein Concentrate (MPC) and Whey Protein Concentrate 80% (WPC80). Positively charged ultrafiltration membranes provide a cost-effective alternative to traditional chromatographic resins for fractionation of the major whey proteins, namely β-lactoglobulin and α-lactalbumin. The modified membranes are simple to prepare, and stable to regular use and typical cleaning agents. The membranes do however face some regulatory hurdles prior to be approved as processing aids.

Dairy ingredients in food applications

Qixin Zhong, Ph.D., associate professor from the University of Tennessee discussed several thermal stabilization strategies for the protection of dairy proteins such as using co-solutes, enzyme pretreatments, glycation with reducing sugars and complexation with other polymers to increase the breadth of applications for dairy proteins. These strategies allow for an expansion of the application base of dairy proteins into UHT-treated products and clear/acidic beverages while maintaining their desirable nutritional and functional characteristics.

MaryAnne Drake, Ph.D., Professor from North Carolina State University spoke on the flavor of whey proteins, which unlike other ingredients are more valued in dairy foods if they have less flavor. Basically, bland is better! Dr. Drake identified the undesirable off-flavors in whey protein ingredients as those linked to lipid oxidation and sulfur degradation. These unwanted flavors can be controlled by the optimization of milk handling, whey production, along with alterations to storage and processing techniques.

Phillip Tong, Ph.D., Professor from Cal Poly State University who organized and hosted the symposium revealed his research regarding the use of low-concentration mineral chelates in dairy ingredient processing. He explained that depending on the concentration, chelating agents such as citrate, EDTA and polyphosphate can be useful in modifying the functional behavior of dairy products, and when all three are used there are dramatic enhancements to the heat stability, froth qualities and clarity of reconstituted skim milk powders. He suggested that these chelators could easily allow ingredient processors to produce more value-added and functional skim milk products with higher solubility and heat stability for new lines of milk protein products that are already allowed for export markets under Codex Alimentarius. Further, Dr. Tong indicated that these same chelating agents could also limit the deposition of mineral foulants on equipment surfaces, thereby reducing cleaning efforts and saving processors both time and money.

Where do we go from here? A Dairy Ingredients Roundtable Discussion

One of the most valuable parts of the symposium involved feedback from end-user panelists using dairy ingredients in their products. The message was remarkably consistent; ingredients that deliver taste, texture, stability and nutrition at a low price point are the key requirements. Dairy ingredients represent the ‘gold standard’ for performance, functionality, bioactivity and nutrition profile, but they’re expensive compared to alternatives. Non-dairy ingredient suppliers are making rapid advances and have a cost advantage, so the dairy industry cannot rest on its laurels. Panelists concluded that dairy ingredient manufacturers should work along side the formulators and end-users to deliver the products that the market demands.

A future to look forward to

The 15th Annual Cal Poly Dairy Ingredients Symposium program helped to demystify the science of dairy ingredients and provided commercial implications of the research in a meaningful way to dairy producers, processors and end-users alike.

Dr. Pasin stated that “this symposium provided an opportunity to learn from and network with professionals from dairy, food and beverage manufacturers and suppliers, together with academics and government representatives.” She also added that “in order to ensure an innovative and competitive future, an emphasis should be placed on the recruitment of new dairy scientists to the field.”

Therefore, Dr. Pasin was pleased to support and announce the first competitive student travel award given at the Dairy Ingredients Symposium for best student poster presentation. This year’s award went to Dana Wong, a doctoral student from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst for her poster on layer assembly of a biocatalytic film for lactase.

Symposium organizer Dr. Tong added “over the years we have received tremendous feedback from attendees about the value of this Dairy Ingredients Symposium to help manufacturers and end-users."