Meet the panelists

  • Mirjana Curic-Bawden, principal scientist, application manager, fermented milk and probiotics, cultures & enzymes, Chr. Hansen, Milwaukee
  • Jeff Lambeseder, regional product manager, cultures, DuPont Nutrition & Health, New Century, Kan.
  • John Lyne, director of dairy technology, Chr. Hansen
  • Marjorie Saubusse, marketing manager, cheese, DSM Food Specialties, Delft, The Netherlands
  • Josh Zars, regional industry leader, food enzymes, DuPont Nutrition & Health

With the world’s population expected to exceed 9 billion by 2050, farmers and dairy processors have been on the hunt for solutions to feed so many people. One realization is that the same cultures and enzymes used to transform milk into cheese and yogurt can be warriors against waste.

We asked the suppliers of these ingredients how enzymes and cultures help dairy processers run cleaner, greener and more-efficient operations.

Dairy Foods: Let’s first look at the dairy sector’s sustainability profile.

Marjorie Saubusse: The 2014 “U.S. Dairy Sustainability Commitment Report” highlighted that the U.S. milk carbon footprint equaled 2.05 kg CO2 per kg of milk consumed. The same report reveals that the U.S. carbon footprint of cheese and whey equaled 8.3 kg CO2 per kg of cheese. Of this, 46% of the carbon emissions were generated by milk production, as opposed to 22.4% from feed production.

Jeff Lambeseder: Looking specifically at the issue of food waste, the magnitude of loss in the global dairy sector is actually relatively low compared with total global production and food loss. Using food-balance data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, just over 2% of total milk, butter, cheese, cream, whey and eggs produced globally in 2011 was lost.

However, this figure doesn’t include dairy that’s wasted during the distribution and consumption phases of the supply chain, where, owing to spoilage, the amount of dairy wasted is substantial. In parts of the world where cold storage and transportation systems may be less developed, losses can be much higher at even earlier stages of the food chain.

Dairy Foods: How might dairy processors streamline their sustainability and efficiency profiles? What solutions are available to them?

Saubusse: Expertise and understanding of the current global concerns is the basis for developing solutions that help manufacturers increase production efficiency by making the most of their milk. Because of the specific functionalities they add to a product, enzymes provide a valuable tool for optimizing manufacturing processes and positively contributing to minimizing cheese waste.

As for cultures, because only a minimum amount is used in the process and added to the milk, cultures remain a cost-effective, simple and stable way to enhance dairy characteristics and do more with less raw material. This allows dairy producers to improve yields and get more out of their milk.

Dairy Foods: Can you share some case studies of how enzymes or cultures help solve real-world dairy-waste challenges?

Saubusse: The high coagulation activity of our [proprietary] cheese coagulant enables cheese producers to reduce coagulant input whilst maintaining the same flocculation of milk in the manufacturing process. In a recent study we conducted, the coagulant showed constant coagulation and less variation in gelation over time.

Compared to animal rennet, reduced variation in gelation allows for better control of moisture content up to 0.2%, depending on the cheese type. And because of the specific proteolysis that the coagulant brings to the cheese, whey losses are reduced. Lower proteolysis also means that both manufacturers and consumers enjoy a firmer cheese texture with up to 0.5% minimum increased moisture, therefore resulting in improved yield.

Customer trials have shown that the product allows producers of continental and Swiss cheese types to reduce the optimized dosage by up to 20% compared to other current commercial bovine chymosins, resulting in increased cost-efficiency and consistent quality. Depending on the cheese technology used, this also results in up to 20% reduction in losses during slicing, cutting and shredding. This allows cheese producers to make the most of their raw materials and benefit from a more consistent product over its shelf life.

John Lyne:I nitially, whey and whey cream had been considered byproducts of cheese production. Nowadays, these streams are divided into added-value products such as WPC 80 and WPI 90. But because this process also generates low-value fractions such as delactosed permeate, or DLP, concepts like our [proprietary] product generates more value out of existing commercial processes using [certain of our] enzymes.

[One such enzyme] converts DLP to lactobionic acid, a product that can be used in the dairy industry by incorporating low-value lactose into cheese or selling it for other high-value applications, such as cosmetics or for use as a stabilizer in food applications.

An enzyme that we developed in alliance with Novozyme, adds value by incorporating more of the milk fat in cheese, improving cheese milk processing efficiency, increasing yields and reducing the need to process a waste stream, that is, whey cream.

Josh Zars: UHT milk production is very often limited by the need for cleaning-in-place operations every day. This requires the use of chemicals, but also results in a production loss and may lead to quality issues. In a standard operating unit, for example, fouling on a heat exchanger causes a production breakout for an average two-hour period twice a day.

[We have] a specialized enzyme that helps dairy processors optimize production and add health advantages to their products. The average case shows that use of the enzyme in UHT milk can save up to 600 hours per year of production capacity. So for every dollar spent on enzymes, there’s approximately a five-dollar cost savings in processing by skipping one daily cleaning-in-place operation.

On top of this, the environmental footprint is also improved by a substantial reduction of energy and water consumption, along with a reduction in cleaning chemicals used.

Dairy Foods:  What about cultures? What efficiencies do they bring?

Lyne: One of the advantages of using bacterial cultures in dairy production is that by converting lactose to lactic acid, cultures extend product shelf life and thus help limit product lost to spoilage.

Traditional production of these lactic acid bacteria as bulk starter cultures is increasingly being replaced by concepts like our direct-vat set and ripening cultures, which need no activation or treatment prior to use. And they generate more consistency in manufacturing and increased robustness. That means less waste onsite from bulk culture production and fewer cheese downgrades due to culture failure.

Dairy Foods: That’s quite a feat. It wouldn’t surprise me if some of you were combining these smart cultures with enzymes to create hybrid solutions that get even more out of milk. Am I right?

Mirjana Curic-Bawden: Yes. Cheesemakers recognized the value of whey protein long ago and have been utilizing it as whey powder for use in a wide range of applications. However, in spite of the recognized benefits of whey protein, use of whey itself as a base for fermented whey beverages is a concept that has not yet gained traction in the United States.

We’ve found that liquid whey can be enriched with whey protein concentrate to increase the protein level. In addition, liquid whey can be treated with lactase and fermented with a probiotic culture. Lactase hydrolyzes lactose into glucose and galactose, both of which have higher sweetness than lactose, allowing for a reduction in added sugar. The result is an all-natural, lactose-free, probiotic whey protein beverage that can be further blended with various juices, vitamins and/or other functional ingredients.

Saubusse: We recently created a complete solution for producing high-quality pasta filata, or stretched-curd, cheeses with sustainable benefits for food manufacturers. It comprises a combination of our [proprietary] ranges of Streptococcus thermophilus and the XDS coagulant enzyme. Its extremely low proteolytic activity offers cheese manufacturers additional process and efficiency benefits in the form of flexible production and consistent shredding, slicing and dicing with fewer fines and cheese losses over shelf life.

Also, with the Gouda cheese type, the combination of cultures, coagulants and enzymes produces a cheese with a high balanced taste and no off-flavors. Whilst this type of cheese can normally require six weeks to mature, our solution allows producers to achieve the same benefit for unique cheeses priorities in only three weeks and with the same amount of milk. This allows them to reduce maturation time and thus reduce stock, energy and maintenance costs.

Dairy Foods: How else can manufacturers use cultures and enzymes to improve process and quality both?

Lambeseder: A good culture system can help producers improve the consistency of their fermentation and really “dial in” their process setting to target the correct levels of moisture and solids in their dairy product. In addition, cultures can add texture, create a customized flavor profile and help extend the shelf life of dairy products.

Lyne: Prolonging shelf life introduces both functional and quality challenges. But extending the shelf life of string cheese, an increasingly popular on-the-go snack, is a challenge that can be addressed using a less proteolytic coagulant such as [our proprietary] liquid rennet. This enzyme will increase the efficiency of the coagulation process but, due to its less proteolytic nature, results in a cheese with a firmer body and a longer shelf life.

Dairy Foods: While manufacturers may appreciate the improved efficiencies and reduced waste that come with using cultures and enzymes, are waste and efficiency even on consumers’ radars?

Saubusse: The U.S. wastes 31% to 40% of its post-harvest food supply, with a substantial portion of this waste occurring at the consumer level. People at every stage are now more sensitive to food waste and aspire to adopt better practices for a better world.

In the first national consumer food-waste survey, nearly three-quarters of the 1,010 respondents said they waste less food than the average American. In addition, 13% of respondents indicated that they don’t discard any food and 56% estimated that they discard only 10%, though the estimated average food waste for consumers is around 25%.

Dairy Foods: Waste is on their radars, but something else they’re paying attention to is “clean” labeling. Do enzymes and cultures meet consumers’ criteria for “real,” “natural” or “clean”?

Lambeseder: Consumers expect to see enzymes and cultures on the labels of their favorite cheeses, sour cream and yogurts. Cultures, in particular, are very label friendly. Many yogurt producers call out the specific cultures used to make their products.

For example, it’s very common to see Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus listed as “live and active cultures.” As consumers also start to recognize the benefits of probiotics, we often now see Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium and other species of these good bacteria called out on a product’s label or even on the front panel.

Saubusse: Because fewer stabilizers and texturizers are being used in formulations, more manufacturers are looking to cultures for their impact on the production process, whether to minimize the use of other ingredients or additives like sugar or, again, to extend the product’s shelf life.

And by making use of the benefits that enzymes bring, food manufacturers don’t need to include certain ingredients to obtain similar results. This allows for fewer ingredients in their products and on their ingredient labels.

Dairy Foods: Far from being a dark smudge on a clean label, enzymes and cultures can actually help manufacturers make those labels even cleaner?

Saubusse: Yes. Consider that the carotenoids present in whey are among the main challenges related to its processing, as they give an off-white color to the product in which the whey is used. This makes it unsuitable for the production of white-color applications without the use of any treatments.

Traditionally, hydrogen peroxide or benzyl peroxide was used to bleach whey. But more natural solutions are now available that complement today’s clean-label trends. We offer a fungal peroxidase enzyme which can render whey white whilst maintaining a clean label. Compared to alternative products, the application uses 10 times less hydrogen peroxide, thereby reducing the carbon footprint of these processes by over 80%.

Dairy Foods:  Who knew cultures and enzymes played such a critical role in dairy sustainability?

Saubusse: That’s because sustainability isn’t just about the environment. It’s a complex concept that encompasses productivity, profitability, social sciences and, yes, environmental issues. A sustainable industry is one that manages to find the right balance between all these pillars.