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Chr. Hansen hails new cheese culture club members

By Ben Bouckley , 27-Oct-2011

Danish food ingredients specialist Chr. Hansen is poised to launch a new range of cheese cultures that it claims will radically extend the shelf-life taste profile of products such as feta.

Chr. Hansen is set to unveil its SafeIT range at Food Ingredients Europe (FIE) in Paris from November 29, with the products forming part of the company’s existing Direct Vat Set (DVS) culture range.

The range has been developed to appeal to the taste profiles of Middle Eastern and Southeast Europe consumers, with white-brined cheese covering products as varied as domiati in Egypt and feta in Greece.

According to Chr. Hansen, around 1.8m tonnes of white-brined cheese is produced worldwide annually, a figure that is growing 5 per cent per year.

Jamila Bouanda, Chr. Hansen’s marketing manager for cheese cultures, said: “We know that consumers prefer a creamy, yogurt-like flavor in their white brined cheese without compromising on the cheese texture.”

Bouanda added that the culture blends had been developed specifically for ultra-filtrated, white-brined cheeses to “ensure a deliciously fresh and smooth flavor in the cheese, as well as a firm, sliceable texture”.

Improved taste profile

Chr. Hansen said its DVS cultures allowed it to avoid undesirable characteristics of such cheeses, such as an acid taste, gluey appearance and bitter taste.

Asked precisely how the cultures achieved this result, Bouanda told DairyReporter.com that the buffering capacity of ultra-filtrated milk increases (meaning a higher alkaline level) due to its higher protein concentration.

Previously, this necessitated the use of higher culture doses, but this led to the undesirable characteristics detailed above, she said.

Chr. Hansen’s DVS cultures blended mesophilic and themophilic strains, Bouanda added.

“The mesophilic strains in SafeIT are known for not causing bitterness in cheese due to the high degree of cremoris strains,” she said.

“The thermophic strains will drive the fermentation speed at 37°C, which is the recommended temperature during the acidification of the concentrated milk. The pH will be less than 5 within 8 hours to get the right texture.”

Extended shelf life

Bouanda said that quicker fermentation – 2 hours faster than conventional products – would allow cheese producer to increase cheese plant throughput, while the cultures provide an extended shelf life of 4-6 months.

The current shelf life for white cheese in the Middle East was 45 days to 3 months, Bouanda said. “But we have proved that SafeIT will maintain the fresh and tasty flavour up to 6 months.”

“Feta producers will reduce the returning of goods and expand sales and distribution coverage. In addition, SafeIT will guarantee their brand image through its quality and consistency,” she added.

Said Bouanda: “Finally, the strong bacteriophage resistance of certain mesophilic strains in the blends will minimise phage attacks and scrapping at the dairies.”

And despite a clear target market for SafeIT, Bouanda also hinted at opportunities further afield. “We’ve launched SafeIT primarily for feta type products, brined or not brined, which is mainly produced in those regions.

She added: “However, we’ve also seen an opportunity within white cheese made in other regions, for example, Latin America and Africa.”

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