The role of technology in the ingredients sector

Posted: 23 May 2007 | NF | No comments yet

In the past decade technology has provided an essential function and played an important role in the moulding and development of dairy ingredients.

In the past decade technology has provided an essential function and played an important role in the moulding and development of dairy ingredients.

In the past decade technology has provided an essential function and played an important role in the moulding and development of dairy ingredients.

Simon Hunt is the New Product Development Manager of White Milk at Dairy Crest Ingredients, and has been a member of the company’s highly skilled Technical Team of Food Technologists for the past six years.

He has been actively involved in the creation of new and innovative dairy-based ingredients that have provided ground-breaking products for the food industry.

Here he talks to New Food of the impetus that new technology has provided in developing and enhancing some of these new ingredients.

“During the past ten years it has been necessary to invest in new and innovative technology to ensure a leading edge in the highly competitive ingredients sector of the food industry.

\“Major changes in consumer lifestyle in the past few years have greatly influenced the way society cooks and eats. More wealth and an adventurous palate, due in no small way to extended travel and foreign holidays, have brought a new dimension to consumer eating habits. The food industry has been quick to respond to change, producing an increasingly sophisticated range of ready meals and snacks.

This rapid growth of the convenience sector has called upon all the skills of the food technologist and the development of new technology to produce ingredients for both healthy and indulgent food.

“There is also pressure on the technologist and equipment to create a product that will not only benefit and ensure consumer confidence but also a cost effective ingredient that will satisfy the commercial market”.

Freeze Dried Cheese

Simon sites Dairy Crest Ingredients’ award winning Freeze Dried Cheese as a key example of new technology. Historically cheese is the most natural and oldest method of preserving the nutrients in milk. During the past decade there has been an upsurge in cheese consumption.

“We work closely with our customers to develop and precisely tailor new cheese blends to meet the many and diverse applications for cheese including pizzas, sandwiches, chilled and frozen ready meals, dips and sauces together with party foods and savoury bakery products,” explains Simon.

As part of the next generation of cheese products the food technologists at Dairy Crest Ingredients developed an exciting range of Freeze Dried Cheeses.

Only first grade top quality cheese is used for freeze drying. Although a more expensive process, freeze drying, has proved superior to spray drying. The high temperatures needed for spray drying destroy some of the subtle flavours associated with fresh cheese.

The gentle freeze drying process removes 97 per cent of the moisture content from the cheese and, therefore, the weight is significantly reduced making it easier to handle and less costly to transport.

Freeze Dried Cheese will re-hydrate in the mouth releasing the full flavour notes typical of fresh cheese.

Production Process

Production of Freeze Dried Cheese begins with grating or crumbing fresh cheese to increase the ratio surface area to volume. The cheese is layered onto trays for processing through the freeze dryers. Conditions used in a freeze dryer depend upon the cheese type.

A number of process optimisation trials have determined the temperatures and times suitable for each particular variety of cheese. Freeze Dried Cheese typically leaves the dryer with moisture content of just three per cent. It is packed in 10kg silver foil pouches and flushed with nitrogen before sealing to ensure easy flow.

Cheese is highly susceptible to flavour tainting because of its relatively high fat content. Equipment used in the freeze drying process is subjected to rigorous cleaning and hygiene procedures before processing begins.


Freeze Dried Cheese does not melt or disappear when used in baked products. This added benefit is a special bonus when used in speciality breads, pizza bases, biscuits and other baked goods where the consumer can see discrete inclusions of small pieces of Freeze Dried Cheese.

Other applications include dry mixes such as soups, sauces and baby foods and croutons for topping soups, pasta or salads.

Frozen Pearls

At the start of the new millennium technology played an optimal role in Dairy Crest Ingredients creating a revolutionary new product called ‘Frozen Pearls®’.

Frozen Pearls® are tiny drops of top quality cream that are quickly frozen. They are about the size of garden peas and particularly targeted at customers who buy small quantities of cream.

The technology for producing this product is provided by the state of the art Cryoflow process. Pasteurised cream is fed through a series of injectors into a stream of liquid nitrogen flowing into a bath of liquid gas. As it falls, droplets of cream freeze into tiny pellets first forming a frozen shell and emerging at the end of the process as solid Frozen Pearls®.

The rapid freezing process ensures that Frozen Pearls® are freeze thaw stable, do not separate once thawed and retain whipping functionality.

Frozen Pearls® are easy to scoop or pour into mixes. They have the added bonus of helping to cool down hot mixes and are ideal to enhance ready meals, ice cream, soups and sauces. The unique appearance of Frozen Pearls® makes them a suitable decoration and topping for frozen desserts.

Every last drop of Frozen Pearls® can be utilised as they can be easily tipped into mixes while still frozen. The product has the added benefit of being compatible when used in conjunction with bulk cream and is handy if needed as a top up measure.

Further enhancement

Hot on the heels of this highly successful product, the food technologists at Dairy Crest Ingredients developed the product further with the aid of freeze drying.

The gentle freeze drying process additionally enhanced the tiny frozen droplets of top quality cream; creating a number of added benefits. These include being ambient stable with a prolonged shelf life of twelve months, retaining their uniform spherical shape without degenerating into powder form, and still retaining all the quality and flavour of fresh cream.

Simon Hunt is enthusiastic about this innovative range, made possible by using the latest technology.

“A key benefit to the food industry for using these ingredients in this practical format is the potential to cut product wastage” he says. ‘’Every last drop of the frozen creams or crème fraiche can be utilised. They are versatile ingredients and can be easily tipped into dry mixes while still frozen and, of course, there is the added bonus for the food manufacturer to feature the luxury of fresh cream on the label”

Whey Ahead

Developments in processing technology during the last decade have led to Whey being recognised as a useful source of high quality protein and other nutrients; used to produce a wide range of products including ice cream, baked goods, confectionery, seasonings, margarines and spreads for the food industry.

Today, whey is recognised as one of the most versatile and interesting by-products of the entire food industry. In recent years Dairy Crest Ingredients has been at the forefront of technology to develop opportunities for this adaptable product.

A recent multi million pound investment at Davidstow Creamery, home of the Cathedral City brand, has included a new state of the art £10million spray drier and evaporator for the production of whey powder.

Recently, the dairy industry has investigated alternative uses for whey. Developments in processing technology have significantly increased its applications. Processes include not only the established drying and evaporation techniques, but also membrane processing and biotechnology, e.g. ultra-filtration. These methods allow individual components, such as protein and minerals to be extracted.

The Future

The final words belong to Simon who comments: “New ingredients and value added dairy products will continue to be developed for years to come for this multi-million pound industry. New technology and the skills of the food technologist will go hand in hand to ensure that they are successful.”

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