The dairy firms Humana and Nordmilch - linked up in a joint venture called Mopro Nord - have joined forces to establish a new dried whey product plant as an extension of an existing plant in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, northeast Germany.
The new plant, installed by APV and Anhydro, encompasses improvements to existing evaporators and dryers, a complete lactose powder production line, silos and a lactose milling plant.
"Unlike many by-products, however, whey or its component parts can be used in many different food industry applications, either in powder or liquid form.
Our aim with the new plant is to produce innovative, value-added whey products that can help our customers to address new needs and markets," says Roelof Weerts, general manager of Mopro Nord.
Powder and liquid production at the new plant will be based on daily deliveries of many thousands of tons of whey, both from Humana's and Nordmilch's own cheese factories as well as from others, he continued.
Value-added ingredients that offer decent returns are the holy grail for ingredients makers looking to boost the bottom line in an increasingly competitive business climate.
And the double-digit growth that whey derivatives - a by-product of cheese production - are currently enjoying is incentive enough for the two German dairies to delve deeper.
Compared to other dairy ingredients, whey and its various fractions hold some of the most promising value for the food and dairy industries. The products are enjoying strong demand, notably on the back of the sports nutrition and functional food market which uses whey protein concentrates and isolates extensively.
In 2002 consumption of the sweet whey, demineralised whey, whey protein concentrates (WPC) and whey protein isolates (WPI), came in at nearly 770,000 tonnes in western Europe alone.
With improved methods for extraction and purification, whey fractions can extend product development possibilities with new nutrition and functionality.
Whey is comprised of protein, lactose (milk sugar), minerals (calcium, phosphorus and magnesium) and fat.
Whey protein contains alpha-lactalbumin, beta-lactoglobulin, bovine serum albumin, heavy and light - chain immunoglobulins(Igs), and proteose-peptones.
Traditionally, whey was a by-product with a negative value from cheese production; but in the 1950s the US started to add value to the by-product.
Food, according to analysts 3A Business Consulting, has been the last zone for market penetration of whey derivatives identified by the ingredients firms in both the US and Europe.
Proteus Insight claims that while first generation whey products, such as sweet whey powder and lactose, remain the most popular type of whey used by food processors, second generation versions like whey protein concentrate are rising in popularity and opening the way to further-factionalised third generation products, such as lactoferrin.
Key suppliers of whey ingredients include Friesland Foods Domo (formerly known as Borculo Domo), Dutch lactoferrin provider DMV International and Euroserum, as well as global dairy players Arla, Kerry and Glanbia.