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Culture supplier gets soft on global feta needs

By Neil Merrett , 13-Jan-2009

The manufacturer of a new range of starter cultures designed to offer white brined soft cheeses such as feta with consistent texture that can meet the needs of both traditional and industrialised producers.

Chr Hansen says that the global launch of its Direct Vat Set (DVS) WBC-01\25X100U and WBC-02\25X100U cultures have been initially devised for smaller, more traditional feta and halloumi makers in a specific number of markets.

“Our launch of the cultures is global and we expect sales in several markets but initially we focus on Greece, the Balkan countries and Turkey,” stated Nanna Borne, marketing manager for the group’s cheese cultures operations.

Commercialised production

Borne said that the while company had yet to actively test the product in more commercialised production plants favoured in US and Middle Eastern markets, such a focus would likely be an area for future development.

According to Chr Hansen, the initial launch strategy reflects an attempt to provide what the company says are user friendly cultures that can be added immediately to a production line, where similar products may not have previously been available.

Christos Tsitsos, business dairy manager for the company’s Greek operations, claimed that the development of the products allows manufacturers to better control acidification to protect cheese form yeast during maturation.

“Compared to traditional bulk starter cultures, which are usually based on pure thermophilic strains, the new blends [give] the cheese a better texture thanks to the mesophilic strains,” claimed Tsitsos.

Borne claimed that in making use of Chr Hansen’s DVS format, the company could supply freeze dried cultures to manufacturers that do not require additional treatment or investment before use.

“In the Balkan countries, Greece, Turkey and Cyprus, the traditional white cheese types are often seasonal as they are produced from sheep’s and goats’ milk,” stated Borne. “Therefore it can be difficult to keep the expertise to propagate a bulk starter. Adding the culture directly to the vat is far more convenient.”

Citing research from market analyst Mintel, Chr Hansen said that there has been a steady climb over the last decade for feta cheese products. South Africa, the US and Greece were all identified by the research as key markets for the demand surge.

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