The wonderful world of dairy

NZMP’s focus on constantly innovating has led to many ingenious ways to use dairy

As you slide into your Maserati, take a moment to thank New Zealand dairy farmers for the softness of the leather seats.

No Maserati? Not to worry. Milk can also be found in ceremonial candles in the high reaches of Tibet, high-end buttons and the occasional vodka martini, not to mention a raft of health and pharmaceutical products. NZMP’s focus on constantly innovating has led to many ingenious new products.

“We are spending quite a lot of our innovation focus on how we can do more with higher-value products, such as protein-fortified ingredients,” says NZMP Marketing Director Gillian Munnik.

Recent investment in plant capacity allows Fonterra to shift and channel milk to where the returns are the highest.

Casein – the main protein found in cows’ milk – has found its way across the globe given its high adaptability and not just for food. “It’s almost like the chameleon of the dairy ingredient world,” says Gillian. “It is probably the most versatile component of milk.”

Today, sports car maker Maserati buys leather for its luxury interiors from suppliers who use NZMP's casein to treat hides; Italian leather makers use it on designer jackets and bags.

Essentially a binding agent, casein is found in plastics such as high-end buttons, paint and glues.

Innovating from candles to cocktails 

Candles and so-called butter lamps are an intrinsic feature in temples and monasteries throughout the Himalayas, with ceremonies lit by endless rows. Monks have traditionally used candles made from yak butter, but some have turned to NZMP. Anhydrous milk fat (AMF) is shipped to Tibet in 40-gallon drums where it is used in ceremonial candles as monks prefer the clean-burning and better-smelling NZMP AMF.

Closer to home, Australian boutique spirits company Artisan Spirit Merchants (ASM) sought to produce a unique, high quality, pure, preservative-free vodka and to source the ingredients turned to New Zealand, including the dairy sector. Its ultra-premium vodka, VDKA 6100, is produced in Reporoa, near Lake Taupo, and is fermented from New Zealand whey rather than potatoes or grain.

The whey, which is essentially the watery part of milk that remains after the formation of curds, is fermented, using a rare strain of yeast, to produce ethanol. Given that most vodkas are made from potatoes, grain and grape, this has given the company its key point of difference.

“We strongly believe that whey-based ethanol has fewer impurities and less methanol than ethanol made from grapes and grain. Very few vodkas in the world are made using whey, so it is a unique product,” says ASM general manager Nick Mann.

Vodka can often be harsh, flavourless and odourless. VDKA 6100, however, due to its composition from whey, has a much more “interesting and elegant taste, with citrus notes and hints of white pepper and a wonderful luscious mouthfeel”. In New York, VDKA 6100 can be found on the cocktail lists of some of the hottest bars, clubs and restaurants in Manhattan.

The endless versatility of dairy

Milk also plays a role in the medical world. Pharmaceutical-grade lactose extracted from New Zealand milk provides a vital ingredient that’s found in asthma inhalers, as well as in tablets and capsules.

Only a tiny bit of lactose ends up in asthma inhalers, but it does the important job of delivering the drug to your lungs in the right dose every time. A fine grade of lactose releases more of the drug, more effectively.

Fonterra has a joint venture with Dutch dairy company Royal Friesland Campina. Together the two dairy companies own DFE Pharma, which produces medical-grade lactose that is found in half of the world’s asthma inhalers.

“The amazing thing is the versatility of dairy”, says Gillian, pointing to whey crisps in the US and high-protein milk based gels in Japan as well as milk protein concentrates that help the body to recover faster after trauma or illness. As you slide into your Maserati, take a moment to thank New Zealand dairy farmers for the softness of the leather seats.

Adapted from article released by Rebecca Howard in the  New Zealand magazine"the Listener"