‘Innovating the entire approach to cheese waxing’: How the first fossil-free cheese wax took shape

By Teodora Lyubomirova

- Last updated on GMT

The natural cheese wax matches the performance of commonly-used paraffin-based cheese waxes while being a more sustainable choice for the environment. Image: Getty/.shock
The natural cheese wax matches the performance of commonly-used paraffin-based cheese waxes while being a more sustainable choice for the environment. Image: Getty/.shock

Related tags Cheese Sustainable packaging Dairy Sustainability Packaging

Danish packaging and ingredient specialist Procudan tells DairyReporter how a close collaboration with academics and dairy companies led to the launch of what’s considered the first cheese wax made entirely from natural materials that also matches the performance of paraffin-based alternatives.

The company’s patented formulation comprises beeswax and a proprietary mix of natural materials to create a like-for-like alternative to traditional cheese waxes that is also environmentally friendly.

Released in October 2023, ProCera Natural was a long-term project by Danish ingredient and packaging company Procudan, having commenced in 2017. It also required close collaboration between the manufacturer and dairy producers and academics from several Danish institutions during the R&D phases and while testing out the final product.

“The development of ProCera Natural was a proactive move on our part, as we foresaw a future demand for a natural product in the wax industry,” said Procudan CEO, Tommy H. Pedersen. “We knew that our customers were looking for products that aligned more closely with the natural story and craftmanship of cheese waxing.

“In response, we dedicated research and development efforts to craft a product that not only satisfies current market needs but also sets a new standard for waxing cheeses.”

Procudan CEO Tommy H Pedersen 2023_1
Procudan CEO, Tommy H. Pedersen

With the support of the Danish Technological Institute who were scientific partners on the project, the company came up with a fully natural solution that replicated the key properties of paraffin-based waxes, e.g. their flexibility and pliability.

Lars Germann, center manager at the Institute, said that a typical challenge with natural waxes is that they are ‘extremely brittle and break easily’. “Chemically speaking, natural waxes are very different,” he explained in a press statement. “One of the absolutely central properties of a wax is flexibility. The wax is applied to the cheese in melted form, but afterwards, it must be able to withstand shock and pressure without breaking and creating cracks in the cheese, which in that case will quickly spoil under the wax.”

He added that Procudan had created a wax that’s in line with dairies’ requirements – it is pliable, easy to apply, and resistant to water vapor.

“To realize the vision for ProCera Natural, our commitment extends beyond just a financial investment - it's about innovating the entire approach to cheese waxing,” said Pedersen. “In the realm of research and development, we've significantly expanded our analytical capabilities by investing in new equipment and developing specialized analyses. These analyses are crucial for ensuring the quality of our waxes meets the high standards our customers expect.”

To determine the natural cheese wax’s environmental impact, the Institute carried out a lifecycle assessment in accordance with the PEF method, measuring the material’s impact of its raw materials composition through production.

According to this assessment, the natural cheese wax has half of the emissions associated with traditional cheese waxes.

According to Peter Sommer-Larsen, business manager at the Institute, emissions from food packaging come up to less than 5% of the food’s total footprint, but that doesn’t mean these emissions can’t be shrunk even further. “It is still really important to minimize the packaging's climate footprint, not least because a development like the one we have seen [here] shows that it can be done. The initial assessment suggests that sustainability is significantly improved by sticking to the right idea and consistently working towards realizing it.”

But the proof is in the pudding, and partnering with dairy producers who were willing to use the natural wax was crucial to the product’s development. “The development of ProCera Natural was significantly influenced by the hands-on experiences and evaluations from our customers,” said Maja Duelund, product manager for ProCera Natural at Procudan.

“Through extensive feedback during frequent cheese evaluations at European dairies, we gained invaluable insights into the real-world performance of our wax. This direct line of communication with the dairies allowed us to understand the nuances of how our product interacted with cheeses during both maturing and handling processes.”

The collaboration was crucial to fine-tune the product to ensure that it exceeded the practical requirements of cheese producers, we were told.

Applications and price point

According to Procudan, their natural cheese wax is suitable for a variety of cheese types and is engineered to match the performance of traditional cheese waxes. The materials used are sourced from an ‘ethically sound supply chain’, we were told, which Procudan says is ‘subject to strict requirements for sustainability and social responsibility’.

On price point, Procudan says there is a price premium attached to the natural product, but said the likelihood of this impacting the retail price of cheese is ‘limited’. “There is a price difference [between ProCera Natural and paraffin-based offerings], however, impact on consumer prices in supermarkets is limited," CEO Tommy H. Pedersen said. "The decision will ultimately depend on how important the sustainability agenda is to both our customers and the consumers.”

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Content provided by International Dairy Bakery Association | 14-Mar-2023 | Product Presentation

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