The international patent application, filed by Minneapolis-based General Mills in August 2013 and published in February, details a method for the "enzyme production of soluble fiber from yogurt whey."
"In particular, the present disclosure relates to the enzyme production of oligosacchrides such as galacto-oligosacchrides (GOS) from yogurt whey," it reads.
Oligosacchrides, such as fructo-oligosacchrides (FOS) and galacto-oligosacchrides (GOS), are prebiotics.
They are incorporated into many food products for their "digestive health and immune enhancing properties."
"In addition, oligosacchrides act as soluble fibers, delivering flavor enhancement benefits, moisture retention and shelf-life extension properties," the patent application continues. "Soluble fiber can also be utilized as biding agents for bars, granola, cereal and particulates."
The product of this patent-pending method, which was devised by General Mills' Tanhia Gonzalez and Erika Smith, can be incorporated in either liquid or powder form into a number of products, including cereal, snack bars, baked goods, sauces, and fruit snacks.
US consumer demand for Greek yogurt has rocketed in recent years, and now accounts for around half of all US yogurt sales - up from just 1% in mid-2007.
General Mills is among the largest producers of Greek yogurt in the US.
Yogurt whey, which is commonly referred to as acid whey, is a by-product of traditional Greek yogurt production methods.
Separation results in around 2lbs of acid whey for every pound of Greek yogurt produced.
Unprocessed, acid whey is toxic to the natural environment and has the potential to deplete water oxygen levels and kill fish.
Concerns about the potential environmental impact of acid whey emerged in 2013, following claims US Greek yogurt manufacturers were "scrambling to figure out what to do with" the increasing amounts of acid whey being produced.
Added efforts have since been made by Greek yogurt manufacturers to carefully dispose of the waste product.
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has even taken steps to alleviate the issue.
Filed: 15/08/13 Published: 19/02/15
Title: Soluble fiber from yogurt whey
Inventors: Tanhia Gonzalez (General Mills), Erika Smith (General Mills)