Vikki Nicholson, USDEC senior vice president of global marketing, said that the use of permeates was flat through 2010, but then saw an annual growth of 34% each year from 2011 to 2014. The average number of products went from 30 new launches per year to 170 per year, she told DairyReporter.
“It really has taken off from that standpoint,” she said.
Permeate, a coproduct of making whey protein or milk protein, has been found to have strong potential as a flavor additive, namely as a sodium alternative. Nicholson said this has allowed the industry to keep the salty flavor in products while cutting out sodium.
The product can also be used in bakery or confectionery to help cut back on certain expensive ingredients for an economic advantage for manufacturers.
What spawned the renewed interest in permeate?
What has spawned the higher use of permeate as an additive has been the consumer focus on health and wellness, Nicholson said. In addition, there’s a greater use of permeate in bakery applications, hot drinks such as hot cocoa, and chocolate compounds in the confectionery industry.
Another aspect is milk permeate, she said, which is seeing stronger use in products other than skim milk powder.
Excluding skim milk, the biggest use of permeate currently include the bakery market for items such as retail cookie and baked goods, with drinks like hot cocoa and instant hot chocolate being the second largest use.
The US is a large manufacturer of this substance at 455,000 metric tons per year. Nicholson said she’s seen growing interest in the use of the product from food and beverage manufacturer, especially since it can be marked as “milk solids” on the packaging and fits aspects of “clean label.”
“We’ve seen a lot of growing interest,” she said. “Our US dairy processors that manufacture permeate are seeing a tremendous amount of growing interest in using permeate for food applications. They’ve been quite busy in addressing customer inquiries to that effect.”
“You’d think to be able to put ‘dairy solids’ on side panel rather than a chemical salt and still achieve the same flavor impact is a win-win from a consumer perspective.”
A big export?
While there has been an increase in interest in permeate outside of the US from the Middle East, Southeast Asia and even China (even though it has yet to be approved as a food here), Nicholson said it is challenging to measure the amount that is exported to other countries.
“It’s a little murky,” she said. This is due to tariff codes, which groups permeates with products like modified whey.
“It’s a very broad category and it doesn’t sit in there alone like whey protein concentrate 80, which has a code of its own,” she said. “That’s a challenge we face. That’s a challenge the global trade faces.”
Nicholson said work being done at the Codex Alimentarius Commission may help create a global permeate standard. Once this is created, there would be an impetus to create a separate code for tracking exports of permeate.
“The dairy industry is really behind permeate,” she said. “It meets the need of consumers and allows the industry to leverage innovation. To do so is an opportunity here.”