Driving functional MPCs to new heights

06 Aug 2020

5 min

Our history with MPCs 

Milk Protein Concentrate (MPC) may be less common than other proteins, but its taste, nutritional profile & functionality present a unique solution for manufacturers looking for alternatives to just whey or casein.

Fonterra’s exploration of MPCs stems from our investment into ultrafiltration technology in the 1970s, which delivered breakthroughs in whey protein.

By the 80s we had built considerable experience in membrane processing. By applying this expertise & technology to skim milk, MPC was created.

Female scientist doing testing in lab

Over the years our experts have continuously refined this ingredient, changing how it performed in different environments.

Their determination to challenge the status quo means we now have a diverse portfolio of MPCs to address a wide range of customer challenges or consumer needs.

Innovating for continuous improvement 

Did you know?

NZMP has been innovating in the MPC space for over three decades

MPCs are highly nutritious dairy protein powders with fat levels of less than 3% and concentrated proteins levels between 45%-85%, which can be tailored to the level of protein required by our customers. 

Through the 80s the food industry’s growing awareness of MPCs and their diverse applications were key factors in driving increased demand.

By 1992 we were producing MPCs at scale for use in cheese, milk and cultured applications, such as feta-style cheeses for the Middle East, processed cheeses for the USA, milk-based beverages for Japan and cultured foods such as yoghurt in Europe.

Our integrated team of scientists, nutritionists, engineers and application specialists, gives us the knowledge and expertise to deliver innovative ingredients for customers

Ping Gao | Medical and Sports Nutrition Manager at Fonterra Research and Development Center

Driven by our internal innovation efforts, early developments in MPC gained traction with customers and consumers alike.

By the turn of the century, it was a popular ingredient for diet products such as UHT meal replacements and ready to drink protein shakes, thanks to its lower fat and lactose sugar content than WPC.

woman in blue shirt holding a white PET bottle

Functional MPCs are ideal sources of protein for these formats as they do not foam and clump and are easier for manufacturers to process as a result. MPC also provides a creamy, milky taste and texture that can be palatable and satisfying for consumers that do not enjoy the taste and texture of whey protein.

This encouraged us to investigate how to incorporate the ingredient across more applications and led to the world-first introduction of MPC into the yoghurt-making process to make petit-suisse.

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Protein Innovation Part 1: Our Customers

Finding advantage in the road less travelled

While other ingredient manufacturers favoured standard MPCs, our scientists were convinced that further innovation could take the ingredient to the next level, making it suitable for more applications and refining it to meet more specific manufacturing needs and consumer preferences.

This passionate tenacity uncovered the true potential of the ingredient and led to our world-wide patents of functional MPCs and the creation of our full MPC ingredient portfolio. 

The development of these ingredients, which focus on superior function, flavour, texture and nutrition, enabled high-quality protein formulations with viscosity control and heat stability, as well as clean label, low-lactose and low-fat formulations with a delicious milky taste and smooth mouthfeel.

Beyond this, functional MPCs provided emulsion stability and whitening benefits for manufacturers, resulting in increased yields that were also cost-effective.

Ultimately, functional MPCs brought novel products, such as high in protein yoghurts, milk and medical foods, to the supermarket shelves for consumers

What is Emulsion?

Emulsion is the blending of two liquids that would not normally mix, such as oil and water. For UHT beverages, ensuring a stable emulsion throughout shelf life can be important to ensure a product is palatable. 

Driving new Fast MPC applications

Once the journey started the innovation never stopped. The first breakthrough was the development of the world’s first patented functional cold soluble MPC, which provided fantastic flavour and never-before-seen emulsifying capabilities to prevent gelling.

Commercial production began in 2001 and resulted in the launch of a suite of eight new ingredients with improved performance and function that catered to diverse applications such as bars, beverages, cultured foods, soups and more.

Today, we have multiple patents spanning our MPC processes and ingredients.

Our range of functional MPC can provide advantages such as:

  • Cold water solubility
  • Heat stability to ensure no gelling or sedimentation
  • Clean, creamy flavour with fewer protein notes and a creamier, milky flavour and texture
  • Texture control for protein bars and yoghurts
  • Fast digestion

We also recognised an opportunity to better meet the nutritional needs of mature consumers.

Clinical research found that fast-absorbing proteins help with muscle maintenance and recovery, and mitigates age-related muscle sarcopenia.

Changing consumer taste preferences and price sensitivity challenged us to explore if a modified milk protein could provide the same nutritional profile and rapid release of essential amino acids that whey offers.

This led to the development of our SureProteinTM Fast MPC 4868, which was clinically proven to show rapid absorption and amino acid appearance in the blood.

Bowl of yoghurt on napkin and wooden board

More recently, the high-protein Greek yoghurt trend drove the development of cultured applications, with demand for formulations with lower protein flavour notes but higher protein levels.

As a result, in 2017 a new ingredient, SureProteinTM MPC 4867, was developed with a cleaner flavour profile as its key feature. 

Even to this day, we remain steadfast in building on the innovations of 40 years ago. In 2020 we launched Gold MPC, a second-generation MPC developed in close partnership with a key customer looking to provide beverage and ready-to-mix applications with a superior sensory experience – a cleaner flavour and improved thickness – for consumers.

There is no doubt that the journey from standard to functional MPCs highlights the opportunities that a culture of continuous improvement uncovers.

As our MPC innovation continues to advance we experiment with new ways to address evolving customer needs and consumer preferences.

Want to learn more about how we innovate?

Discover our history of protein innovation

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