Clean Label Dairy Ingredients Offer Functionality

Originally Published: November 12, 2018
Last Updated: February 4, 2021
An image of a jar of sour cream, with a spoonful of the product scooped out showing its thick, creamy texture and spoonability.

March 27, 2018 — As part of the clean label trend, consumers are demanding removal of ingredients from food that they perceive as not “clean,” or unhealthy, yet there are a whole host of clean label dairy ingredients that not only provide consumer-friendly labels, but functionality, as well. “Dairy ingredients offer a clean label alternative to ingredients that have landed on a ‘no no’ list. These ingredients can be modified to achieve desired functionality,” said Sonia Patel, Dairy Food Application Scientist, Midwest Dairy Foods Research Center in her presentation, “Label-friendly Dairy Ingredients: Physio-chemical Properties and Uses in Foods & Beverages.”

There is no simple one-for-one replacement of ingredients to achieve a cleaner label. Replacement of food ingredients affect taste, texture, functionality, consumer acceptance and shelflife of food. Before food scientists start reformulating, they need to understand how replacing specific ingredients will affect consumer appeal. Desired functionalities include meltability, water binding, solubility, viscosity, emulsification, heat stability, gelation, whipping, foaming, color development and flavor. Dairy proteins can provide all these functionalities, but whey protein ingredients will exhibit different functional properties than casein or milk protein ingredients.

Click for downloadable PDF on Dairy Proteins: Functional Properties
2018 CLC/Sonia Patel - Dairy Protein Ingredients Offer Functionality and Consumer-Friendly Labels

Dairy ingredients provide flavor & functionality to foods & beverages – as well as clean labeling.

Whey protein concentrates function as efficient fat mimetics, imparting creaminess and superior texture to soups, sauces and salad dressings. The surface-active properties of WPC, WPI, beta-lactoglobulin and skim milk powders make them excellent foaming and whipping agents in ice cream, frozen desserts and whipped toppings. Through Maillard browning, dairy ingredients provide color development in bakery applications. Dairy ingredients also boost the protein content of gluten-free formulas, noted Patel.

Permeates are a co-product of the production of whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, ultra-filtered milk, milk protein concentrate or milk protein isolate processing. Replacing salt in processed foods with permeates can reduce sodium, as well as improve texture, color and flavor. In addition, milk minerals provide a source of readily bioavailable calcium in nutritional supplements, beverages and bars.

As of June 2015, partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) are no longer GRAS. Patel went on to say that many companies are replacing PHOs with butter, which has unique melting and crystallization properties. Emerging research suggests that consumption of dairy fats and dairy products is linked to reduced risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

The functional properties of dairy ingredients can by modified in many ways. Physical modification can be achieved through heat treatment, acidification, and the addition of mineral salts, homogenization or shear. Enzymatic modification can be affected through hydrolysis, renneting or transglutamination.

A patented process of carbon dioxide treatment and high- pressure processing will cause casein micelles to disassociate, improving Greek yogurt texture without the addition of stabilizers or emulsifiers. This low-cost technology can be easily integrated into existing production lines.

Cavitation is the sudden formation and collapse of low- pressure bubbles in flowing liquids by means of mechanical forces. As liquid passes through the APV Cavitator, it is subjected to controlled cavitation. Microscopic cavitation bubbles are produced and, as they collapse, shockwaves are given off into the liquid, which can emulsify and prevent scaling. During heating, temperature is created uniformly throughout the entire liquid without any heat transfer surfaces. This technology could potentially smooth Greek yogurt texture and manage viscosity in beverages. Plain yogurt made through cavitation might have a clean label that reads simply “Contains: skim milk, milk protein and cultures,” Patel advised.

Membrane filtration technology allows for production of a wide variety of dairy ingredients using a simple filtration process that concentrates the protein. Since the ingredients are produced without any chemical treatment, this manufacturing process could be categorized as clean label processing, as it involves only physical separations.
Dairy has a “clean image” and can easily be modified to provide superior functionality in a wide range of clean label products.

“Label-friendly Dairy Ingredients: Physio-chemical Properties and Uses in Foods & Beverages,” Sonia Patel, MSc, Dairy Food Scientist, Midwest Dairy Foods Research Center, Dept. of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Minnesota

This presentation was given at the 2018 Clean Label Conference. To download presentations from this event, go to

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