Traditionally, whey has been regarded as a low-value bi-product. In fact it conceals a large number of valuable possibilities that make whey processing very worth while indeed – provided that plant solutions are based on optimised technologies and tailored to specific needs.
It is common knowledge that whey and permeate can be transformed into other products and ingredients that can command a higher price than whey itself. In spite of this, a large part of the global whey amount is still not processed into valuable products.
New Light on Whey
Today, there are three major reasons why dairies are looking at whey in a new way. The first is environmental legislation that has put an effective stop to the sewer and “muck spreading” solution. The second is the fact that there are now highly efficient and cost-effective ways of refining whey into high-margin products and ingredients. And the third is that there are now plenty of applications in which these can be used.
In other words, there is a hidden treasure in whey that is waiting to be discovered and exploited.
Five Key Whey Products
Successful refinement of whey requires that the whey – after removal of fines and whey cream – must be pasteurised directly from the cheese plant. After this there are many different options for processing the resulting whey, some relatively simple and some highly advanced. In this article we will focus on five main basic processes.
Mother liquor (delactosed whey concentrate) has a high content of minerals especially the unwanted monovalent minerals such as Na and Cl.
Nanofiltration, ion exchange and a DCP process can all be used to manipulate mineral content in the permeate in order to make it suitable for a number of different applications. A two-step crystallisation and drying process can also be used to increase yield of non-hygroscopic permeate powder.
Anhydro’s Super Concentrated Permeate (SCP) process can be used to concentrate the permeate to about 80% DM prior to “continuous” crystallisation and drying. This process is significantly faster than conventional ones.
There are a number of WPC products on the market with different functionalities. The most interesting latest development is a microparticulated liquid WPC product in which consistent particle size distribution can be tailored to a variety of fat substitution applications from cheese to ice cream, fermented products, desserts and a lot of other applications. By including a drying steps, the liquid microparticulated WPC can be dried to a powder for more convenient transport and storage.
Whey powder has been used for a long time together with proteins, fats and sugars to serve a wide variety of applications. Anhydro’s Super Concentrated Whey (SCW) process uses a two-step evaporation process together with “continuous” crystallisation and spray drying. Like the SCP process, the SCW process requires far less space and offers a significant reduction in processing cost.
5.Demineralised Whey Powder
Demineralised whey powder with 90% demineralisation is normally produced using ion exchange. This process removes proteins that may be required in the production of baby food and infant formula. An alternative process, which retains these proteins, is to employ ultrafiltration to make WPC together with DCP, as well as nanofiltration to make lactose crystals. The products are then recombined, dissolved and dried to make demineralised whey powder.
The surplus WPC and less waste water load more than pay for the additional processing steps.
Dairies with sufficient cheese production to justify whey processing can reap considerable benefits, either by producing ingredients for their own production of low-fat cheese, ice cream, yoghurt, milk-based drinks, desserts etc., or to supply high-margin products and ingredients to food manufacturers.
The challenge, however, is to do so in a way that ensures consistent quality together with rapid pay-back and ongoing superior return on investment.
The answer is to combine the various technologies – evaporation, drying, membrane filtration and other processes – into production plant solutions that are not only tailored to specific demands, but that can also be easily adapted to new ones. Depending on requirements, these plant solutions should be capable of integration with existing plant or available as an integrated part of a new production line.
Anhydro offers a combination of unique technologies and process plant experience that have already given many dairies and cheesemakers a whole new insight about whey and its earnings potential.
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