The technology is a natural process that can increase the shelf-life of yoghurt to up to 90 days by killingspoilage yeast and mould, while selectively preserving live and active cultures, including probioticbacteria, claims New Zealand dairy group Fonterra.
The worldwide yoghurt market has grown over 8 per cent annually for the past three decades, with58 per cent of the growth growth occuring in thepast five years alone. The demand is being driven by the perceived nutritional and dietary benefits of yoghurt.
However, processors must strike a balance between using the traditional heat treatment methodsused in creating long-life yoghurt and the resulting kill off of the live and active culture that gives yoghurt many of its potential health benefits.
Nigel Little, a manager of a Fonterra division dealing with the process, said the technologyallows processors to extend the distribution of their products while maintaining the necessary live and active cultures.
"Extending the shelf-life of yoghurt allows producers to exploit any spare capacity to manufacture anddistribute products to new, geographically distant markets which would be too difficult to reachtoday," he stated. " It could also reduce return rates due to spoilage, aging or overstocking by retailers. Yoghurt manufacturedwith our process will be less susceptible to spoilage resulting from variations in the supply chain."
The process retains the fresh characteristics of the product with no compromise to flavour, colour or nutritionalcharacteristics, Fonterra stated. Manufacturers who currently make heat-treated long-life yoghurt could instead usethe company's process to retain live and active cultures and be able to claim the nutritional benefits of realyoghurt, the company suggested.
"It is a natural process that uses no additives or preservatives, and can be used on a variety of cultured foods andbeverages," the company stated in a press release yesterday. "The technology does not require significant disruption to existing manufacturing processes and existingformulation and packaging can be used in most cases."
Yoghurt manufactured using the process meets the Codex international standard of identity regarding minimallevels of live and active cultures, allowing it to be labelled and sold as fresh yoghurt, Fonterrastated.
Fonterra is licensing the technology to food and beverage manufacturers around the world. Itwill be formally launched at the Health Ingredients Europe conference in Frankfurt, held from 14 to 16 November.
Fonterra has four patents granted or pending in over 30 countries to do with the technology, including onefor the selective inactivation of spoilage organisms and pathogens in cultured foods.