Dairy Ingredients for Clean Label

Originally Published: October 6, 2020
Last Updated: February 4, 2021
An image of lattes served in cups and a glass mug.

Dairy-Based Ingredients for Clean Label Solutions

CLEAN LABEL IS EVOLVING, and dairy ingredients are well-positioned to deliver clean labeled products. A cleaner label can be achieved by leveraging the unique composition and inherent functionality of “off-the-shelf” dairy ingredients or by tailoring dairy ingredients to achieve targeted solutions.

“Food ingredients play many roles, including providing taste, nutrition and functionality to the finished product. When you start to change ingredients, it is easy to disturb the overall harmony of a food,” said Rohit Kapoor, Ph.D., Vice President of Product Research at National Dairy Council, in his presentation, “Dairy for Clean Label: Innovations in Dairy Based Ingredients for Clean Label Solutions,” prepared for the 2020 Clean Label Conference.

Milk contains 3.4% protein, 4.8% lactose, 3.9% fat, 0.8% ash and 87.5% water. The processing of dairy ingredients is very clean and simple. Typical processes include pasteurization, separation, fermentation, evaporation and drying. Membrane filtration is similar to using a coffee filter but with more sophisticated, specific pore sizes to separate protein from lactose and create concentrated, whey and milk protein ingredients.

In milk, the casein-to-whey protein ratio is 80:20, and protein-concentrated ingredients can be classified as either casein-rich or whey protein-rich. Lactose-rich ingredients are created as a by-product, as are ingredients that are rich in important dairy minerals.

“Off-the-shelf” dairy ingredients can deliver important functional properties, including gelation and emulsification. The intrinsic properties of casein-rich vs. whey protein-rich ingredients are different. Casein-rich ingredients will exhibit better heat stability and less solubility at lower pH, while whey protein-rich ingredients show superior solubility at lower pH. (See chart “Protein Ingredient Functional Property Comparisons.”)

The chart provides protein ingredient functional property comparisons, including viscosity, heat, emulsion and foam stability, foamability and gel strength.

Click for downloadable PDF

Dairy ingredients are an ideal choice for clean label, because they deliver excellent functionality, cleaner flavor and higher protein quality than many other ingredients. They allow food manufacturers to use fewer starches, hydrocolloids and flavor maskers. They also don’t require protein blending for protein claims, as do many vegetable protein ingredients.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison compared various dairy vs. plant protein ingredients. They ran a battery of functionality tests and concluded that overall, dairy proteins were generally more functional and versatile than plant proteins.

Dairy ingredients, with their fairly neutral, clean flavor, also deliver a superior sensory profile in final products.

In a model UHT beverage study, milk protein yielded a more homogeneous product, while pea, soy and rice proteins caused some coagulation; rice protein caused considerable discoloration. In a protein water model beverage study, whey proteins delivered superior clarity and stability as compared to soy or pea protein.

Dairy proteins deliver superior nutritional quality. The PDCAAS of milk protein and whey protein is 1.0, whereas soy protein is 0.98; pea protein is 0.89; and rice protein is 0.42.* Using plant proteins often requires blending of several proteins to achieve desired protein quality, thus increasing the length of the ingredient legend.

Fat-rich dairy ingredients provide unique mouthfeel, as well as superior flavor release and sensory experience. Use of high-fat dairy ingredients in coffee creamers is a growing clean label trend. Dairy ingredient manufacturers can perform slight processing adjustments to achieve ingredients with very specific, tailored heat-stability or emulsification properties. For example, chelating out some of the calcium yields milk protein ingredients (e.g., MPCs) with significantly greater solubility and heat stability in RTD beverages. These tailored MPCs can replace phosphates in RTD beverage applications.

In other examples from emerging research, a tailored ingredient that combines whey protein isolate and pectin has shown to enhance emulsification in salad dressings and replace less label-friendly ingredients, such as monoglycerides and polysorbate 80. And, skim milk powder can be produced by treating milk with high-pressure jet to increase its foaming properties. This ingredient will be useful in ice cream and lattés, where foaming is desired and can be declared as simply “skim milk” on the product label.

Other processing adjustments produce micellar casein that can result in a coffee creamer with superior whitening and emulsification properties and can be used to replace sodium caseinate in this application. Emerging research has also shown that lactose-rich ingredients can be modified by catalytic treatment or enzymatic conversion to create a sweetening syrup that can be used as an alternative to artificial sweeteners.

Additional beneficial ingredients, such as cultured milk or cultured whey ingredients, function as label-friendly, unique bio-preservatives that can replace potassium sorbate or sorbic acid.

Dairy ingredients have a clean image and are well positioned to deliver diverse functional properties and versatility, leveraging their unique composition and inherent functionality.

* Information from Phillips SM, Front. Nutr., 2017; 4: 13 (https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2017.00013)

“Dairy for Clean Label,” Rohit Kapoor, Ph.D., Vice President, Product Research, National Dairy Council, rohit.kapoor@dairy.org

This presentation was given at the 2020 Clean Label Conference. To download presentations from this event, go to https://cleanlabel.globalfoodforums.com/category/clean-label-rd-academy/

See past and future Clean Label Conference Events at https://cleanlabel.globalfoodforums.com/clean-label-events/