Imagine low-fat cream that's easier to whip, cold butter that's more spreadable and dairy cream powders that can be tailored for a range of products from milk to cheese to yogurts. The solution is all in the size of the fat globules, according to a research team led by professor Bhesh Bhandari of The University of Queensland's School of Agriculture & Food Sciences in Australia.
Bhandari, also of the Australian Research Council (ARC) Dairy Innovation Hub, is pioneering techniques to create innovative dairy products with relatively small capital investment.
"Fat globules in milk came in various sizes, with each size class able to be used to improve specific dairy products," Bhandari said. "Our latest findings reveal that small fat globules impart an amazing stability to cream and give cold butter softer texture and improved spreadability."
Bhandari and his team are exploiting technologies such as nanoemulsions (emulsified oil and water systems with droplets ranging in the billionths of a meter), which are gaining popularity in the pharmaceutical industry.
"The benefit of using the existing dairy equipment is that it can be readily applied to the dairy industry with some modifications," he said. "We expect this innovative approach can be used to increase the whip-ability of low-fat cream and to manufacture functional cream powder for use in recombined liquid milk, cheese, yogurt and butter making.
"This will help in introducing further desirable properties in low-fat butter or fat spreads," he said. "We can't wait to learn about consumer responses to the taste and flavor of nano-sized butter in the later stages of the project."
ARC Dairy Innovation Hub director and associate professor Sally Gras said the capabilities developed by the nanoemulsions team have the potential to enable production of innovative dairy ingredients.
"This is a great outcome for the dairy industry, as these innovations could boost the sale of dairy fat products, potentially increasing the return on investment to dairy manufacturers," she said.
The work builds on a previous University of Queensland project funded by Dairy Innovation Australia Ltd. in which dairy nanoemulsions were revealed to have unique physical characteristics.