Cultures and enzymes: Clean label workhorses
New ingredients have the potential to accelerate production of some products.

CHICAGO — When it comes to simple formulations, dairy products dominate the packaged foods sector. With minimal processing along with the addition of just a few, yet powerful ingredients — cultures and enzymes — fluid milk may be converted into many different products, including cheese, sour cream, yogurt and other fermented dairy foods.

Cultures and enzymes are the behind-the-scenes workhorses that allow for the development of a diverse range of dairy products. This is because culture strains and enzyme structures are very specific and function as taste, texture, mouthfeel and shelf life modifiers. With simple declarations on ingredient statements, they complement today’s clean label trend.

“Cultures and enzymes should be, and are in our experience, a key consideration when revamping an ingredient label,” said Mark Cornthwaite, marketing leader — dairy, DuPont Nutrition & Health, New Century, Kas. “Our research shows that these components of a label are viewed as clean by consumers and some can also help deliver label claims that encourage a consumer to pick the product off the shelf. The clearest example of this is using an enzyme to reduce the amount of sugar in a product.”

Enzymes as processing aids

Enzymes serve as processing aids, meaning they have no technical or functional effect in the finished food and are present at insignificant levels in the finished food. They serve various functions in dairy foods processing, most notably breaking down lactose in lactose-free milk manufacturing.

“Our functional ingredients team continually works to tweak enzyme systems in order to solve applications challenges,” said Chris Limmex, technical sales — enzymes, Kerry, Beloit, Wis. “One example is with lactase. We are able to reduce added sugar content up to 25% in dairy products such as chocolate milk and yogurt. When paired with our flavor modulator technology and taste solutions, we can further reduce sugar and deliver sugar-reduced dairy without an impact to taste or texture.”

Lactase converts lactose in dairy to galactose and glucose. This enables the processor to reduce the amount of added sugars and still achieve the same degree of sweetness in lactose-free dairy products. This also allows for more attractive product labels with claims of reduced added sugars.

Cultures and enzymes: Clean label workhorses
Ingredient suppliers are working to develop technologies for the processing of lactose-free products.

Chr. Hansen, Denmark, is introducing an enzyme solution designed to easily remove lactose from milk while at the same time securing authentic dairy taste. The system has high activity across a broad pH range and is perfect for fermented milks, according to the company.

The company offers a complementary culture line for maximum sweetness formation. Together, the culture and enzyme system allows for the production of lower-sugar, authentic-tasting fermented dairy foods.

Denmark-based Novozymes recently introduced a lactase enzyme designed for the production of a range of lactose-free products, including milk and fermented dairy products such as yogurt. Originated from Bifidobacterium bifidum, the enzyme differs considerably from traditional lactases made from yeast and is the first, major innovation in this growing industry for years, according to the company.

With the new enzyme, the desired lactose level may be measured more precisely and easily reached. This is because less oligosaccharides — carbohydrates — are formed during the reaction compared to yeast lactases, particularly when producing 0.01% lactose-free milk.

“The enzyme works at lower pH and higher temperature than other lactases and is therefore not only suitable for production of lactose-free milk and other products, but also for fermented dairy products,” said Simon Lyndegaard, director — food platforms and strategic development for Novozymes. “It works extremely well in yogurt production. In addition, the lack of invertase and other critical side activities makes it a great solution in sweetened dairy products, maintaining physical and organoleptic properties during shelf life.”

Understanding dairy cultures

Cultures are function-specific in dairy foods manufacturing. Processors select culture strains based on desired finished-product attributes.

The most commonly used cultures are known as lactic acid bacteria (L.A.B.) and often are referred to as starter cultures. The cultures ferment the lactose inherent to milk into lactic acid, a process responsible for lowering pH. This gives dairy products a characteristic sour or tart taste and also coagulates proteins. There’s a 
variety of L.A.B. available to dairy processors, with specific strains providing distinct flavor and textural characteristics.

There are also adjunct cultures, which primarily are used in cheese manufacturing to provide or enhance characteristic flavors and textures. They function by breaking down various components of milk.

Probiotic cultures, on the other hand, are viable microorganisms that have little or no impact on a product. Their purpose is to biologically influence the body after consumption.

Lastly, some cultures exert a bio-protective effect against yeast and mold. This allows for the production of dairy products free of preservatives and stabilizers.

The Ingredient House, Pinehurst, N.C., and Russian ingredient company Soyuzsnab, have developed a novel range of freeze-dried starter cultures for fresh fermented dairy products. The L.A.B. range took more than 20 years to identify, select and isolate. All of the strains belong to the Soyuzsnab strain library, which exceeds 3,000 strains extracted from natural sources, all free of any genetic modification.

“These new cultures have a very fast fermentation time in fresh dairy applications,” said Peter Brown, vice-president of marketing and strategic business development at The Ingredient House. “They work quickly and have a very short lag time to begin fermenting. The quick start to fermentation and acid production creates an environment where other species cannot grow and consequently produces a higher microbiological purity.”

Using the technology, sour cream production may be completed in almost half the time of when traditional cultures are used, with no loss of taste or texture, Mr. Brown said. The same is true with the yogurt strain, which provides pure lactic taste with a creamy nuance. The resulting product has a thick texture with high viscosity, which is resistant to the processes of mixing and the addition of fruit filling.

There are multi-strains of starter cultures with probiotics specific for all types of fresh dairy foods, including kefir and the Russian fermented milk ryazhenka. With the latter, the lactic strain provides a traditional baked milk taste and a stable, thick texture.

Unique strains of Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus casei may be used to produce authentic matzoni, a buttermilk-like fermented milk drink common in Armenian and Georgian cuisine. The strains provide a strong, thick, glossy characteristic coagulum.

“All of these new novel cultures enable customers to increase the output of their production without having to invest in new fermentation equipment,” Mr. Brown said.

Chr. Hansen has launched an adjunct culture that provides a creamy, rich dairy flavor with increasing diacetyl production during shelf life. It does this without gas production.

Production of traditional fresh dairy products, such as sour cream, quark, buttermilk, fromage frais and cream cheese, is often a compromise between optimal flavor development and a risk of carbon dioxide development during distribution, said Lasse Vigel Joergensen, global marketing manager. For traditional starter cultures containing Lactococcus lactis ssp. lactis biovar diacetylactis and Leuconostoc sp., flavor production is linked to gas development and the risk of bloating cups or bottles if the cold chain is compromised.


Cultures and enzymes: Clean label workhorses
White fresh cheese consists of white brine curd cheeses, such as feta.

“In mesophilic fresh dairy applications, flavor development and gas development are linked,” Mr. Joergensen said. “Our new culture breaks that link.”

The new culture, which is a blend of Lactobacillus species, shows an ability to improve the flavor profile during storage of fresh dairy products. While most fresh dairy products lose their delicious and fresh flavor during shelf life, products fermented with the new culture experience an improved flavor that is maintained during cold storage.

The culture is designed to be added on top of the normal starter culture and has no effect on the acidification speed of the fermentation or the post acidification. As a result, the texture of the product is not influenced.

Less than a year ago, Ganeden, the Cleveland-based manufacturer of patented strains of probiotics, entered into a strategic alliance with Sensus America Inc., Lawrenceville, N.J., to offer a liquid prebiotic, chicory root fiber syrup blended with the highly stable probiotic Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086. The new ingredient allows for the development of lower-calorie and lower-sugar dairy products with digestive health benefits.

Royal DSM, The Netherlands, is launching a range of cultures for white fresh cheese producers. White fresh cheese is commonly produced in Eastern Europe, the Balkans and the Middle East and consists of white brine curd cheeses, such as feta. These high-protein cheeses may be consumed as small cubes or crumbled, making them an attractive and versatile convenience food.

The new cultures, along with specialty enzymes, may improve taste by reducing bitterness, as well as extend the shelf life of white cheese. They also enable a fast fermentation and accelerate ripening to increase production efficiency. DSM provides a process scan to optimize production and a pro-active approach for controlling phage during culture performance in cheese production.

As the industry continues to simplify ingredient statements, processors are exploring new uses of cultures and enzymes. Expect to see more highly specialized cultures and enzymes for specific applications. They often will allow for the removal of ingredients such as preservatives, stabilizers and even flavors, with a little going a long way in terms of product performance.