As the industry turns to new income sources, dairy companies are fast turning whey into value-added food ingredients for the food, dietary supplements and nutraceutical industry, claims a new report.
"Traditionally, whey was a by-product with a negative value from the cheese production - today the application of sophisticated technology for manufacturing highly valuable whey derivatives determines the profitability of the cheese production," said Werner Kofod Nielsen, co-author of the report from 3A Business Consulting.
All major cheese companies in the world are involved in whey processing, but most companies are in the commodity business and not the high value-added derivatives.
"The high value-added whey derivatives, relatively small in volume but with significant value of several hundred US dollars per kg, are already important food ingredients for industries ranging from infant formula to medical foods," added Tage Affertsholt from 3A Business Consulting.
According to the authors of the report, some of the major dairy companies dominating the scene are New Zealand company Fonterra, Dutch DMV, French group Lactalis and Irish company Glanbia. A number of more specialised companies are also very active, these include Milei, Davisco, Armor Proteines and Tatua.
"In this highly competitive market, science and technology are key elements in providing the most adequate customer solutions," added Affertsholt.
The growing global production of cheese has generated ever-growing quantities of whey solids and to maximise the overall profitability of cheese and whey solids, processing of new innovative high value-added whey derivatives are sought to be developed - this trend is equally applicable to both the protein and lactose part of whey solids.
The report claims that the fundamental challenge facing the industry is to find 'technologically feasible and economically profitable applications' for the increasing amount of whey and permeate.