“There’s plenty of space for newcomers’: Cream cheese presents a lucrative opportunity for South American farmers
Demand for spreadable cheese has seen a steady growth in recent years. There has been a 10% increase in new product launches between 2021 and 2022, for example, with sales in Latin America in particular rebounding markedly since the pandemic.
Meanwhile, Euromonitor forecasts that the category’s retail value will grow from $2.2m to $3.4m in 2027 – and while the competitive landscape currently includes big-name brands, Ignacio Estevez, Arla Foods Ingredients application manager for South America, says ‘there’s plenty of space for newcomers to enter the market, especially in food service’.
“One of the biggest challenges dairies face when they want to expand their portfolios is finding ways to increase production line capacity,” he told us. “This usually means spending more on equipment, raw materials, energy and logistics – and traditional methods of producing cream cheese are known for high levels of waste and a need for specialist equipment.”
According to Arla, traditional cream cheese production is complex, expensive and lengthy, with manufacturing taking as long as 20 hours. The finished product contains only around a third of the milk input, with two thirds left over as acid way, which is difficult to dispose of and presents a potential environmental risk. Another challenge for dairies would be ramping up production capacity in situations when the availability of milk is limited.
But Arla Foods Ingredients thinks it could solve most of these problems through ingredient innovation – its Nutrilac range of functional milk proteins is said to minimize wastage and reduce the manufacturing process to just 30 minutes in some cases. The ingredients also provide structural and textural stability and can be used with existing equipment.
Most notably, the ingredients can help avoid acid whey streams entirely and enable dairies to utilize all of the milk for cream cheese production. “By using Nutrilac ingredients in their cream cheese production, dairies can easily adapt their processes without changing equipment,” Estevez added. “That allows them to redirect milk usage to production lines and increase capacity using the same quantity of milk. As well as cost savings, it allows greater flexibility, with production line space being freed up.”
Arla Foods Ingredients, which owns the leading whey processor in the South American trade bloc, is releasing a series of webinars describing how dairies could use the ingredient to make cream cheese. These will be held in April in Spanish and Portuguese and accessible via the co-op's Latin America website.