Danish company Chr Hansen used robotised screening methods to test 1,400 potential bacteria strains from its 'bank’ of over 30,000 bacteria strains before settling on 10 cultures which protect dairy against unwanted yeast and mould, without changing the taste or texture.
The firm mobilised over 100 people to develop the range over the past three years, making it one of the company’s biggest projects to date, said marketing director for dairy bioprotection, food cultures & enzymes Peter Thøysen.
“We have big expectations for these cultures,” he told FoodNavigator. “We see it from the customers lining up already.”
Dubbed FreshQ, the cultures can be used in fermented milk products such as yoghurt, sour cream, fromage frais and quark. They also work well in white, brined cheese such as Feta and stretched curd pasta filata such as Mozzarella.
Chr Hansen predicts the biggest demand to come from use in yoghurt and fermented milks.
The fact that there are 10 in the range allows dairy manufacturers to choose the most relevant one for their products, meaning fewer unintended sensory changes to taste and texture.
The Copenhagen-headquartered company, whose portfolio includes probiotics, colours and natural plant protection, recently identified bioprotection as one of its most important areas for strategic growth. The segment grew by 30% last year.
The cultures must be listed on the ingredient list but, because they are “normal lactic acid bacteria, similar to starter cultures or yoghurt cultures”, the culture is already listed on the label for the intended product applications, said Thøysen.
Available in the same format as standard starter cultures for dairy - frozen or freeze-dried pellets – they can be added to the dairy base as part of the normal fermentation process.
Banishing artificial preservatives
The firm expects high demand in regions where manufacturers have been struggling to take out artificial preservatives due to the hot climate and lack of cold storage facilities, such as Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and some parts of Asia.
However, there could also be demand in western markets, Thøysen said.
Meanwhile, 17% of European yogurt production goes to waste, despite the fact that cold chain storage facilities are readily available. In 80% of the cases this is because the use-by-date expires somewhere along the supply chain, Chr Hansen said. It therefore believes that its bioprotective cultures, which can extend shelf-life by around seven days, could reduce some of this waste.
Potassium sorbate is widely used in the US as an artificial preservative in dairy applications and, although its use in yoghurt is banned in the European Union, manufacturers often add it to the fruit preparations, which are then mixed with yoghurt meaning it still ends up on the finished product’s ingredient list.
“Consumers do not care how potassium sorbate got on the label. They just do not like it. FreshQ can help to take out the unwanted artificial preservative from either [yoghurt or the fruit preparation] by protecting the finished product.”
“In very few places Natamycin is also allowed to be used, and could therefore also be the unwanted artificial preservative that the dairy is working on to remove”, he added.
The cost of using a bioprotective culture is higher than the artificial solutions, however. “This means that they are relevant in cases where there are drivers pulling towards more natural products with shorter and simpler ingredient lists.”
The cultures are less effective in hard, continental cheeses and, as they are live cultures, are not intended to be used in heat treated, ambient products.