The Probiotic Cheese Company, located in North Hampton, New Hampshire, which Windt formed with businesswoman Roxanne Barnes, teamed up with Vermont Farmstead Cheese to create a pasteurized cheese with a daily dose of probiotics.
“My friends and colleagues at the American Cheese Society said, ‘Why don’t you invent a probiotic cheese?’ I figured there’s probiotic yogurt, how hard could it be to develop a probiotic cheese? Well it took three years and we were successful,” Windt told DairyReporter.
Probiotics are beneficial living organisms normally found in a healthy human gastrointestinal tract. Their presence promotes the function of the intestinal lining and suppresses excess inflammation in the body, according to a report by the NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information). An absence of probiotics in the gastrointestinal tract may lead to adverse health effects including diarrhea and constipation.
Windt who specializes in asthma, allergy, immunology, and pulmonary medicine, and is also a self-proclaimed cheese enthusiast (joining the American Cheese Society as its first physician 25 years ago), saw a market opportunity for pasteurized probiotic cheese.
He wanted to create a way for people to receive a full day’s worth of probiotics in a snack-size form. After three years of research and development, and 50 individual lab tests, the probiotic cheese was created.
Windt, who is a proponent of raw milk consumption because of its natural probiotic properties, had to work with FDA regulations to get his product on store shelves.
“One of the ways to get around this FDA prejudice is by taking pasteurized milk and reinfusing the probiotics into it. There’s no issue with pregnant women, children, or immune-compromised individuals,” Windt said.
Probiotics occur naturally in cheese made from raw milk, but go against FDA pasteurization regulations.
“What we’re doing is mimicking what nature does. About 6,000 years ago, cheese was invented and it was all probiotic because it was made from raw milk and it had the good bacteria in it. The fear that the FDA has is the fear of bad bacteria like Listeria, but that’s really secondary to contamination and handling, not from raw milk,” Windt said.
Windt has been advocating the use of probiotics for years, giving presentations across the US on behalf of the American Cheese Society, and believes that the whole body can benefit.
“The new science that is just exploding, is the microbiome and probiotics research. And the microbiome has always been thought of, in the past, to be talking about the bacteria in your gut. But as a pulmonologist, we have found that the lung is not as sterile as we thought it was and has its own micriobiome and that communicates with the gut microbiome. There’s actually a third microbiome: the skin,” Windt said.
“We also know probiotics prevents C. diff (Clostridium difficile), which is a really bad bacteria to get when someone’s been on antibiotics for so long. And it is life-threatening, in fact my mother died from it. It’s a very bad thing but probiotics can prevent that,” Windt said.
In fact, Windt puts his patients, including ones with immune deficiencies, on probiotics.
“Over the last generation and a half, we’ve been seeing more problems with allergies, obesity, asthma, allergies, eczema and unfortunately, a lot of that has to do with our diet and possibly because we’re not getting enough of the good bacteria or exposure to bacteria in our diets,” Windt said.
Windt believes that cheese is the best and easiest way for people to consume probiotics, compared to other ready-to-eat dairy products like yogurt, which naturally contains about 9 grams of sugar per serving.
“Cheese is one of the best foods you can eat. Children, in particular, do not do really well with taking a lot of pills, but children love cheese and everyone loves cheddar cheese!” Windt claimed.
Sharp cheese investment
Barnes, CEO of Probiotic Cheese, pitched the product to Whole Foods in spring 2015 and, since that meeting, Probiotic Cheese can be found in all 38 North Atlantic Whole Foods retail stores, with plans to expand nationwide by the end of 2016.
Barnes believes that the product can have mass appeal based on positive feedback from in-store product demos and sampling.
“Our target was pregnant women, elderly people, diabetics, and athletes; anyone that’s interested in eating a healthy diet. I mean, there’s not one particular group we’re going after,” Barnes told this website.
Sold in 5 oz. packages, the cheese comes in the shape of five individual curd pieces, and is available in two flavors: Original Cheddar Cheese and Savory Pepper.