New vacuum packs enable long-life cheese
cosmonauts in space has been developed by the Russian Ostankino
Dairy and may offer opportunities to improve shelf-life on Russia's
soaring cheese market, reports Angela Drujinina.
Ostankino said its Karat factory had received a special order for its Drujba sintered cheese from the Russian government to feed cosmonauts on missions within the earth's orbit.
The firm said an exclusive packaging technology devised by Karat meant the cheese would not have to be dehydrated like normal space food.
Instead the new Drujba formula maintains the freshness, taste and useful properties of its earthly counterpart by being packed in a vacuum container with "specially created conditions". Ostankino said the cheese contained no preservatives.
The first batch of the cheese has left our planet already.
The Karat factory has been the official producer for the Russian Defence Ministry for some time, supplying high quality products without preservatives in a special package, which keeps products fresh for a long time and are therefore especially adapted for military life.
Ostankino is traditionally the biggest sintered cheese producer in Moscow and its Karat factory is the largest on Russia's food market with a capacity of 25,000 tonnes per year.
The company plans to increase the factory's capacity to 40,000 tonnes per year in the near future as well as transforming the plant into a national distribution base by creating a state-of-the-art agricultural complex to manufacture a range of cheeses and other products.
The firm's space packaging technology could be a key tool in its attempts to expand across Russia. The sheer vastness of the country means food miles are high, making shelf-life a very important factor in product development.
Demand for cheese in Russia is also sky high, presenting a good market to test new products. Annual consumption actually reaches about 440,000 tonnes per year, actually far exceeding Russian firms' combined production capacity of 250,000 tonnes.
The Russian cheese market increased 13 per cent in 2003, while manufacturing capacity only rose 6.7 per cent, according to market analysts AC Nielsen.
Nielsen said half of the cheese market in Russian cities was already controlled by international and Baltic producers, with another 10 per cent supplied by other former Soviet nations. That leaves 40 per cent supplied by Russian firms.