Wednesday, November 14, 2018
 Inside Arla’s New Whey Hydrolysates Plant  

By Richard Dillon

A key use is the booming infant milk formula (IMF), with the ingredient promoting easier digestion and faster absorption. Beyond babies there is the potential life-saving use in clinical nutrition and on the leisure side, performance improvement for sportspeople.

Miles of gleaming pipework greet you as you enter the production area of Arla’s Danmark Protein (DP) plant in Videbaek. The new EUR40 million PH facility will treble the existing hydrolysate capacity and is the latest addition to the plant, which processes five million tonnes of whey a year from nearby cheese producers, such as Arla’s nearby Vlum Dairy and from as far away as the UK, Sweden and Germany.

Huge tankers of whey pull up outside 365 days a year. At the receiving end, technicians log the quantity and quality of the whey being delivered. It is possible to track the origin of the whey through every stage of the manufacturing process.

Site manager Erik Veslov explains to me, as best he can, the technical processes that the whey goes through. For the layman, it’s mind-boggling. We know that milk itself is a complex substance and at Videbaek, little by little, since the 1980s, they are uncovering its further potential.

Customised spray-drying and filtration equipment is involved in the production of high-quality whey protein concentrate and speciality, functional milk proteins – all those gleaming pipes I mentioned.

Global demand for speciality proteins has prompted a series of rapid expansions of the plant, of which the dedicated hydrolysate section is just the latest.

In 2012, the completion of DP’s newest spray-drying tower and associated equipment more than doubled alpha-lactalbumin processing capacity. Production of caseinoglycomacropeptide increased 10-fold. Dry-blend lactose started on a commercial scale in the autumn of 2014.

From this month the plant will be able to produce 4,000 tonnes of high quality whey and casein hydrolysates a year.

Entrance to the new facility involves an even more vigorous process than the rest of plant. This means donning new protective gear and a series of steps absolute hygiene. It avoids cross-contamination from the rest of the plant as well as ensuring that visitors, and staff, do not inadvertently infect the finished product.

Milk protein hydrolysates are proteins that have been through a natural enzymatic process. They mimic the natural breakdown of proteins that takes place in the gastrointestinal system during digestion of a protein meal. It pre-digests, in fact, ensuring that it is more rapidly absorbed in the human body. This means they can deliver the benefits of the protein more quickly and effectively to those who need it most.

Annual market growth
The global market value of these Foods for Special Medical Purposes (FSMP) has been growing at an annual rate of 5.4% a year. The market is estimated to have reached EUD8 billion this year. By 2020, at a more modest growth rate of 3.6%, it should reach nearly USD12 bln.

The growth of take-up of FSMP for infants is equally impressive, according to Arla Food Ingredients’ data. The market has been growing at an average rate of 6.8% since 2010. It is estimated to be worth USD6 bln now and just over USD7 bln by 2020.

Partial hydrolysates are used in feed for infants at risk of developing an allergy to cow’s milk, and also for ‘comfort’ milk formulas. Arla says the launch of these new hydrolysate products has boomed over the last decade, with demand particularly strong in China and the United States.

Food allergies, especially in children, are reported to become increasingly common, both in the developed and developing worlds. Latest surveys show that allergy affects up to 35% of people at some stage in their lives.

Among infants, 2% to 3% are reported to suffer from cow’s milk allergy, making it one of the most common allergies in infancy and childhood. In addition, up to 20% of children suffer from atopic dermatitis and the number in increasing.

This has sharpened the focus on early intervention. And research has revealed that part of a protein, known as epitopes, is implicit in allergic reactions. Hydrolysis destroys the epitopes or reduces their effect.

Key 'comfort' market
Another aspect of infant nutrition is also drawing more attention. Up to 30% of infants fed conventional milk formula suffer from gastrointestinal discomfort such as colic, regurgitation and constipation.

At issue is the protein content of formulas – they contain between 40% and 50% more protein than human milk.


At Videbaek, the aim is to reduce or alter the type of proteins used. Whey protein hydrolysates are produced by enzymatic cleavage of protein, Erik explains. This results in smaller peptides. Uptake of smaller peptides is faster than that of free amino acids of intact protein and will eventually lead to improved digestion.

Arla Foods Ingredients quotes studies which demonstrate that the use of hydrolysed whey protein in infant formulas significantly reduce regurgitation and crying – especially in colicky infants.

Happier babies mean, of course, happier parents. And a booming market for the dairy sector in which Arla reckons currently it is a world leader.

Anders Steen Jørgensen, its paediatric business unit director, said: “Our new factory has been built from the ground up, with the single aim of producing the best dairy protein hydrolysate ingredients available anywhere in the world.

“Our solutions offer scientifically documented health benefits, excellent solubility, superb microbiology and uniform quality. Now we can also offer them in much greater volumes with complete security of supply.”

Source: Agra-Net


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