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Idaho Milk Products wins 2024 Breakthrough Award for Dairy Ingredient Innovation

(l to r) Blake Anderson, ADPI Pres. & CEO; Idaho Milk Products Team: Maria Van Holland, Production Manager; Shane Norwood, Plant Manager; Daragh Maccabee, CEO; Dr. Gunvant Rathod, Senior Scientist, Product Research & Development; Dr. Venkat Sunkesula, VP of Research & Product Development and Douglas Peckenpaugh, Group Publisher, BNP Media

The American Dairy Products Institute (ADPI) congratulates the team at Idaho Milk Products as the recipients of the 2024 Breakthrough Award for Dairy Innovation on the formulation of its IdaPlus 1090, a protein used in ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages. The annual award, presented by ADPI and Dairy Foods, puts a spotlight on the accomplishments of an ADPI member that achieves greatness in dairy ingredient innovation or makes the job of dairy processors much easier.

Founded in 2009, Idaho Milk Products was the realization of the vision of a small number of progressive dairy farmers in southern Idaho’s “Magic Valley.” The vision extended to a state-of-the-art milk processing plant in Jerome, Idaho, targeted at high-specification dairy ingredients. Notably, the dairy’s first bag of milk protein concentrate (MPC) was created in February 2009. Since then, the business has grown operationally and commercially with its milk protein isolates (MPI) and customized ingredients being utilized by food industry customers domestically and internationally.

“We expanded to our current footprint in 2019 and now process about 4.5 million pounds of milk every day from our large-scale owner dairies, all of whom are within a 50-mile radius of our plant,” Daragh Maccabee, CEO of Idaho Milk Products, tells Dairy Foods. “In 2019, we also made a major investment in our Milk Innovation Center (MIC) to develop our products further and provide a platform to collaborate to a greater extent with our partner customers in addressing their needs and the needs of the marketplace. Our team is currently made up of 250 people.”

The ingredient

Idaho Milk saw a need for IdaPlus 1090 as the global RTD market was valued at $1.4B in 2021 and is projected to reach $2.7B by 2030, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.1%, according to Straits Research.

IdaPlus 1090 possesses significantly greater solubility than standard milk protein concentrates MPCs and MPIs, leading to faster dispersion and hydration, even at colder processing temperatures, the company states. “This results in smoother, less grainy mouthfeel and less chalkiness,” notes Dr. Venkat Sunkesula, vice president of product research and development. “Beverages experience improved viscosity, including maintaining low viscosity over shelf life and higher heat stability, reducing the occurrence of gelling. In addition to improved texture, consistency and flavor, manufacturers have encountered shorter make times and the potential to remove stabilizers, resulting in lower costs and cleaner labels. The future growth potential of these types of items is bright.”

The genesis

In June 2022, Idaho Milk Products had a cross-functional team working on this project with a goal to innovate a new MPI that can enable the development of a clean-label RTD high-protein shake (30g protein/11 ounce serving – 100% MPI, no caseinate, no added sugars, <1 g total carbs, no artificial sweeteners, and flavors and most importantly, no chemical chelators and citrates) with a shelf life of 24 months.

“The primary challenge in the new milk protein ingredient development was determining the cleanest process to alter the functionality (altering the mineral content), the optimum range of mineral reduction, and the carbohydrate levels to achieve the target goals. Once these parameters were determined at benchtop and pilot scale, the development work moved on to scale up production in the main plant to produce the new MPI ingredient, IdaPlus 1090,” the company noted. “The IdaPlus 1090 was evaluated for all essential functionality performance and sensory evaluation criteria. These process interventions improved the hydration/dispersion of MPI powders in water and resulted in a clean/bland flavor without chalky or powdery notes, common sensory defects perceived with most commercial versions of MPC or MPI upon rehydration.”

The next step for the Idaho Milk team in November 2022 was developing the RTD formulation by reducing the levels of chemicals step by step, assessing each formula prototype processing, and observing the stability until all the chemical levels in the formula reached zero levels.

“Further, the successful formulas (different flavors) at the pilot plant were processed in a commercial ultra-high temperature processing and packaging facility, TetraPak, Denton, Texas, in two replications (two popular flavors, vanilla and chocolate). Processed RTD formation in Tetra bottles was stored at ambient temperature (22 degrees Celsius) and in a hot box (38 degrees Celsius) for accelerated storage stability and checked every month for stability using different tests such as pH, viscosity, particle size, stability index, sedimentation,” the company reveals. “These formulations showed predicted stability for 24 months. These results prove that IdaPlus 1090 can formulate clean-label RTDs without any phosphate and citrate in the formulation. In addition to the higher protein requirement, the lower sugar content of IdaPlus 1090 also enables the formulator to bring total sugar down to less than 1 g per serving of 40g of protein.”

Once Idaho Milk was confident with the shelf stability, it began taking the concept to different RTD customers and presented the product at trade shows like the Institute of Food Technologists’ IFT First annual event and expo, as well as SupplySide West.

“Multiple manufacturers across several channels in the global marketplace are currently using or investigating these highly functional items to bring clean label and nutritional quality and value to their various applications,” relays Kevin Quinn, vice president of sales and marketing. “Some examples of application include, but are not limited to; high-protein shelf stable beverages, yogurts, bakery, food, ice creams, etc.”

“However, it is not the end of the journey as we are continuing to work with several other customers with various versions of protein, sugar, and clean-label requirements,” the company adds. 

Maccabee concludes it is a great honor to win the 2024 Breakthrough Award for Dairy Innovation.

“Impact starts small with the courage to act on an idea. IdaPlus 1090 is the culmination of a multi-year project that reflects the very essence of true collaboration. Our research and development team in our MIC worked hand-in-hand with customers to understand, in detail, the desired attributes of the end product,” Idaho Milk Products’ CEO maintains. “Daring to discover new potential, we conducted extensive trials, and fine-tuned IdaPlus 1090 to meet desired attributes. Through cross-functional partnerships, we worked tirelessly to bring the product to operational scale. The joy comes from seeing one great result from one great team all in the service of our customers.”

The Idaho Milk Products team was honored for their achievements at the 2024 ADPI/ABI Annual Conference on Tuesday, April 30.

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