The cheese, which was developed by researchers at AZTI-Tecnalia, was created by substituting the animals fats found in milk with cholesterol-free vegetable fats with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
AZTI-Tecnalia’s Iban Sagardia, who headed-up the project, told DairyReporter.com that he and his team were handed the task of developing a cheese for the elderly – especially those with high blood pressure.
“The challenge facing AZTI-Tecnalia researchers was to develop a new method of producing cheese that would allow the bioactive compounds to be increased and the undesirable compounds to be reduced, like saturated fat and salt, this is, to develop a dairy product as healthy as possible,” he said.
Healthier for consumers
“The new functional dairy product is low in cholesterol, and rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Therefore, the total amount of fat is similar to normal cheese, but the difference relies on the quality of fat, being the vegetable fat used healthier for consumers. Furthermore, the amount of total sodium is reduced without affecting product sensory quality or shelf-life,” said Sagardia.
“Furthermore, this prototype can be used as a carrier for incorporating other bioactive compounds such as fatty acids or peptides that would allow product diversification under the category of healthy dairy products.”
Sagardia revealed that the team’s first objective was to optimise the cheese by designing a product that met the nutritional requirements of consumers suffering from hypertension.
“This included the removal of cholesterol and the reduction of saturated fats. In order to do so butyric fat was replaced by a commercial 100% vegetable fat rich in omega-3 and omega-6,” he said.
“One of the main reasons to consider the use of vegetable fats is that the European Union allows for nutritional claims declaring ‘source of omega-3’ if the product contains 0.3g/100g product or ‘high omega-3’ if it contains 0.6g/100g. Furthermore, a complementary strategy used for fat replacement was adding micro-particulated whey proteins, allowing further reduction of the amount of fat in the product.”
The team’s second objective was to reduce the amount of sodium in the product, which it achieved this by replacing sodium chloride (common salt) with potassium chloride.
Aside the nutritional qualities of the functional cheese developed by Sagardia’s team, the product also apparently passed a taste test.
The cheese was sampled by a number of consumers, who rated its taste, aroma and texture.
“We have carried out some consumer tests in order to analyse the potential perception differences when compared to a standard mature cheese and to study the influence of label information (nutritional and/or health claims) on consumer perception,” said Sagardia.
"Results showed that providing information related to product nutritional benefits positively affected consumer expectation, and hence product acceptability was higher than when no previous information was provided.”