Cream cheese alternative: A fresh approach to dairy spreads based on milk proteins

Cream cheese is popular with consumers because of its fresh taste and healthy protein content. Food producers also appreciate the products’ versatile applications in sweet and savory delights. Yet the product is notoriously difficult to produce and process. ICL Food Specialties has developed an alternative solution called BEKAPLUS® DP 302 that provides the benefits of cream cheese without any of its disadvantages.

Cream cheese consumption is on the rise globally – its fresh taste and creamy texture make it a popular cheese product which comes in many different variants with fat contents ranging from zero to 35 percent. Its versatility regularly drives new product innovation – according to Innova Market Insights, a market research company specifically dedicated to the food industry, the increase in new cream cheese product launches has been at a stable 6 to 7 percent annually over the last ve years. Such products range from sweet to spicy, from cheesecake and fillings to toppings and spreads. The Middle East, Africa and Latin America are the regions showing particularly strong growth. In the Western world the use of cream cheese based spreads are becoming increasingly popular as a protein rich snack option. Combined with increasing demand for convenience foods such as oven pizza breads and dips, cream cheese features highly on many diets.

Complex production issues

Yet there is a difficulty: cream cheese production is traditionally complex. It commonly involves concentrating a fermented milk and cream mass by a separator or by ultra filtration to the desired dry matter and texture. The concentrate is then heat-treated, homogenized, and finally flavors can be added. This process requires a long list of specialist equipment including silo tanks, pasteurization, fermentation, ultra filtration or separators, and homogenizers.

The procedure not only demands expert knowledge and equipment. Its major drawback is that it yields low output per kilogram raw material, resulting in large quantities of acid whey as a by-product. For each kilogram of cream cheese produced, there are typically 2 to 4 kilograms acid whey left over. While acid whey can be further used, for example as animal feed, it is of low value. Not everyone interested in creating cream cheese and associated products has the capacity to store, sell on, or further process acid whey – and simply disposing of it is not an option. The reduction of acid whey is therefore also encouraged in light of environmental protection.

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There is another way

ICL Food Specialties together with its subsidiary Prolactal has now developed a new concept to produce tasty, creamy dairy spreads as an alternative to cream cheese.

The new product, called BEKAPLUS® DP 302, allows the manufacture of a spreadable product with very smooth and creamy texture at a pH value of 5.2, similar to cream cheese. However, it completely replaces fresh cheese or curd as raw materials. Its stabilized, standardized protein base is suitable for baking stable fillings and avoids syneresis. As a result, it is an innovative solution that helps to diversify many portfolios that bene t from creamy spreads similar to cream cheese.

Visitors to Vitafoods Geneva will have an opportunity to test the product that has not yet hit the shelves. ICL Food Specialties first presented it at Food Ingredients Europe in Paris last December.

Easy handling and processing

While BEKAPLUS® DP 302 demonstrates the benefits of cream cheese, it avoids the problems associated with its production. Unlike the many steps and expensive equipment necessary to manufacture cream cheese, BEKAPLUS® DP 302 can be turned into tasty products in one simple step using simple equipment.

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For a tasty Japaleno chili dip, for example, water, BEKAPLUS® DP 302 and vegetable fat are pre-blended in a simple cooker or Stephan cooker, heated by direct steam injection. After holding it at high speed, spices are added and the chili preparation can be stirred in, before finally hot-filling sliced Jalapeno pepper. The result is a smooth, shiny, creamy protein dip with a zing.

The simple production process requires no curd or quark and results in no by-products whatsoever. There is also no need for fermentation.

Unique ready-to-use solution

But there are not just benefits to processing. The product itself is also of very high quality and convenience.

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Standardized raw materials mean that food manufacturers can rely on stable product quality when processing. They will find it easy to standardize their final product because of BEKAPLUS® DP 302’s constant protein content, which results in a high-quality final product. As such it can be considered as a cost-effective alternative to traditional cream cheese solutions with maximum convenience.

When experts mix

Based on milk proteins, hydrocolloids, starch, phosphates and citrate, BEKAPLUS® DP 302 is the result of the combination of ICL Food Specialties’ expertise in texture and stability with Prolactal’s exquisite protein production capabilities. In 2015 Prolactal became part of ICL Food Specialties. The company is dedicated to separating milk and whey into their essential components using the latest technology, and to refining them for further processing within the food industry. As part
of ICL Food Specialties, Prolactal offers a diverse portfolio of functional ingredients and extensive application experience. The ICL Food Specialties team has the expertise needed to inspire customers to innovate faster by selecting the right ingredients for function earlier in the development cycle.

This cooperation has resulted in a truly unique, already stabilized, standardized protein base to produce dairy-based spreads.

Excitement amongst food producers

The food industry, including manufacturers of processed cheese, cream cheese and vegetable fat spreads have already taken
note of BEKAPLUS® DP 302 as a convenient solution to extend their product portfolio. They are unanimously attracted by the fact that the product allows them to create innovative foods using their existing equipment. First customer trials with both sweet, cheesecake-style, and savory, oven pizza bread-style applications are already underway, currently awaiting the results of storage tests. Once the tests are completed, we can expect to see the first BEKAPLUS® DP 302-inspired food innovations on our retail shelves.

Dr. Andrea Maurer,
Global Lead Dairy, ICL Food Specialties