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Flavoured camel milk hits the Middle East

By staff reporter, 04-Oct-2006

Related topics: Dairy-based ingredients, Science

The launch of a date-flavoured Camel milk drink could strengthen the development of this product as a viable segment of the global dairy industry.

EICMP's 'Camelicious' product, which is now available in date flavour, has been rolled out across the UAE to coincide with the Holy Month of Ramadan.

And although there would appear to be no immediate plans to bring the product to Europe, camel milk is being touted as a dairy beverage of the future.

In April, the FAO confidently predicted that the dairy product could one day appear on European supermarket shelves. It said that investment within the sector - not only at local level could help camel milk meet growing demand and open new lucrative markets in the Middle East and the West.

The FAO was instrumental in developing the first camel milk cheese, dubbed 'camelbert', in 1992. Since then, camel milk chocolate has appeared, while an Israeli scientist, professor Reuven Yagil, reportedly developed a camel milk ice cream in 1999.

The organisation estimates there are an estimated 200 million potential customers in the Arab world and millions more in Africa, Europe and the Americas. This is the target audience that companies such as EICMP (Emirates Industry for Camel Milk & Products) are trying to reach.

EICMP has been quick to see the potential in all this. Camel milk is slowly being recognised for its health-giving properties - while slightly saltier than cow's milk, camel milk is highly nutritious.

Designed after all for animals that live in some of the roughest environments, it is three times as rich in Vitamin C as cow's milk. It is also known to be rich in iron, unsaturated fatty acids and B vitamins.

EICMP claims that in addition to these health benefits, its Camelicious date-flavoured camel milk has no added sugar and is naturally probiotic.

It also said that the product is ideal for people with allergies or lactose intolerance.

The company initially established a pilot project in 2000 with just 20 camels, but now claims to run the worlds most sophisticated camel milking plant, meeting stringent European Union health and hygiene regulations.

Before the camel milk industry can tackle these new markets, however, some challenges must be overcome. One problem, according to the FAO, is that the milk has so far not proved to be compatible with the UHT (Ultra High Temperature) treatment needed to make it long lasting.

And despite the technology of firms such as EICMP, camel milk production remains a low-tech business. This explains why a meagre five litres a day is considered a decent yield. But this could nonetheless be a market worth looking out for in the future.