Each year, Dairy Foods and the Elmhurst, Ill.-based American Dairy Products Institute (ADPI) honor one deserving ADPI member company with the Breakthrough Award for Dairy Ingredient Innovation. The award celebrates achievements and innovations in one or more of four categories:

  • Innovative milk-derived or whey-derived dairy ingredient products.
  • Innovative processing or packaging of dairy ingredients.
  • Innovative breakthroughs in R&D or quality assurance of dairy ingredients.
  • Innovative marketing of a dairy ingredient.

For 2019, the winner of the Breakthrough Award for Dairy Ingredient Innovation is California Dairies Inc. (CDI), a Visalia, Calif.-based cooperative that produces 42% of California’s milk. CDI entered the competition under the first of the above-mentioned categories.

The manufacturer of fluid milk products, butter and milk powders recently developed a line of milk protein crisps using natural milk protein isolate powder (MPI) that is produced through the ultrafiltration of Grade A milk from local California dairy farms. As Madilyn Ray, product development manager for CDI and the award entry’s submitter, explained, the crisps are produced with CDI’s MPI as the No. 1 ingredient and protein source, and they boast a protein content of 70%.

“The distinctive crispy texture is achieved by using extrusion technology,” she noted. “The milk protein crisps serve as a novel ingredient for any food product application where both added protein and interesting texture are required, such as ready-to-eat nutritional bars, cereals, granolas, snacks and inclusions.”

The crisps also meet the ongoing trend toward added protein. Added protein appeals to a diverse range of consumer demographics, so food companies are keen on highlighting it in their products, Ray said.

“Whether the consumer’s intention is muscle gain, satiety, weight loss, improved energy or overall healthy lifestyle, added protein speaks directly to all those needs,” she said. “In order to stand out, food companies need to explore creative ways to add protein to their products. One such way is through the use of protein crisps such as CDI’s milk protein crisps.”

CDI’s goal from the beginning of the project, therefore, was to target “the higher-protein range,” while creating optimum flavor and texture, Ray noted.

Inspiration for the project came from the nutritional bar industry — where CDI’s milk protein ingredients can be found in extruded bars and high-protein coatings — and from the company’s in-house application testing. CDI said it believed the crisp format would be a versatile way to deliver protein to health- and convenience-seeking consumers. The market already had options featuring whey and plant proteins, but few that highlighted milk proteins.

“We wanted this ingredient to be able to stand alone as the sole protein ingredient in any nutritional product application, and we believe we have achieved that goal,” Ray said.

The company worked with a co-manufacturer, Zumbro River Brand Inc. of Minnesota, to develop the formulation and fine-tune the desired product characteristics through several production runs, she explained.

“In addition to 70%, we were able to produce 50% protein and 80% protein crisps, which we are also very proud of, to suit a wide range of end-use applications,” Ray said.

Creamy white in color, CDI’s milk protein crisps have a neutral flavor and a clean dairy aroma, Ray said. That reality allows the flavors of the finished product to shine.

“Currently the crisps are offered in a small, round shape with diameters of 3 to 5 millimeters; however, the size and shape can easily be customized for any application,” she explained. “For example, a larger size may be ideal for a high-protein savory party mix or sweet breakfast cereal.”

Other ingredients such as cocoa powder, flavors and colors can be incorporated into the formulation, too, Ray added.

Nigel Fernandes, director of product development for CDI, said the company views winning the Breakthrough Award for Dairy Ingredient Innovation as “a great step forward” for its product development efforts.

“[It’s] proof that the best innovations come from being well connected to our customers and understanding their needs and the emerging trends in their industries,” he said. “We are active within ADPI and see them as a positive force in the industry. We are grateful to ADPI and Dairy Foods magazine for developing this award to showcase innovation in the U.S. dairy industry.”

CDI’s research and development team is dedicated to employing cutting-edge technology to develop customer-centric products and services using the company’s state-of-the-art innovation center, added Andrei Mikhalevsky, president and CEO.

“This high-quality protein crisp product is just one example of the specialty products that we are capable of developing,” he said.

Dairy Foods will present the award during the ADPI/ABI Annual Conference, scheduled for May 5-7 in Chicago.