Children and Cheese

The Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research (WCDR) partnered with manufacturers and marketers on a project focusing on flavored cheeses that appeal to children. Gina Mode, senior research specialist and assistant coordinator of the Cheese Industry and Applications Program at the WCDR at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, presented on a project whose objective was to develop manufacturing protocols and identify ingredients and colorants to make the flavored cheeses. Her speech was given in conjunction with one by John Lasin, senior food technologist, Savory Applications, International Flavors and Fragrances. (See Prepared Foods, January 2007 p. 120.)

The products experimented with included string cheese, processed cheese and pressed blocks. One goal was to manufacture a string cheese that tastes like yogurt. Flavors used in the trial were strawberry, banana, cotton candy, bubble gum and green apple.

The effects of different cultures, cooker conditions, sweeteners, flavors, colors and ingredients were examined, and the optimum point of ingredient addition was determined. Compositional and sensory attributes resulting from trial runs were reviewed.

The sweeteners could have an effect on cultures and possible secondary fermentations. Effects depended on the type and amount of ingredients used. Also important was the manufacturing step where the ingredient was added. The processing equipment also made a difference. It was best to add the flavors to the curd before stretching in a waterless system; it was optimal to add ingredients during the molding step when using a standard mixer. Fruits with low pH levels tended to lose flavor intensity in the string format. Purees did not incorporate well in either waterless or normal stretcher conditions.

Adding citric or malic acid helped bring out more flavor; however, the cheese became soft. Water-soluble flavorings worked better than oil-soluble ones. Although no secondary fermentation was detected, some ingredients resulted in watering off in the packages in about one month.

Results showed the cheese-to-flavor ratio affected flavor and texture. Normal cheese-to-flavor ratio is recommended for best texture and flavor even when other ingredients are added. Flavors with a neutral pH were more intense and stood out when compared to low-pH fruit systems. Flavors with some ingredients and sweeteners decreased with time. Artificial sweeteners had more intense sweetness than sugars. Using mild cheeses that do not mask flavors seemed to work best, as did using flavors with lower pH levels.

Some issues that still need to be defined include flavor, shelflife and packaging, as well as using artificial sweeteners versus sugar. The WCDR is looking to interest fast food chains and other food companies in this research as they change menu offerings to include healthier alternatives and search for new product ideas.

“Manufacture of Fun-flavored Natural and Processed Cheeses,” Gina Mode, Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research,,
—Summary by Elizabeth Mannie, Contributing Ed.

Presenting a Prebiotic

Prebiotic fibers are known for their ability to enhance health in a number of exciting ways, specifically boosting immune function. Cristina Munteanu, food applications specialist at GTC Nutrition, explained that in addition to the health aspects of these ingredients, prebiotics also bring valuable functional benefits in terms of formulation. For frozen desserts, short-chain fructo-oligosaccharide prebiotic fiber is ideal for enhancing nutritional value and functionality.

Produced by natural fermentation from sucrose, short-chain fructo-oligosaccharide prebiotic fiber is completely safe for diabetics. The molecules are b2>1 linked, passing intact through the mouth, stomach and small intestine. As a fiber, it helps improve regularity, softens the stool and increases cholesterol excretion.

It is known that some three pounds of bacteria, both beneficial and pathogenic, reside in the colon. These bacteria are associated with host tissues known to impact the immune system. Short-chain fructo-oligosaccharides promote the growth of beneficial bacteria, specifically bifidobacteria and lactobacilli. Known as probiotics, they help shift the balance in the right direction.

These probiotic bacteria metabolize short-chain fructo-oligosaccharides and produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFA), in turn stimulating gastrointestinal (GI) cell proliferation, maintaining colonic epithelium integrity and suppressing inflammation. Other benefits associated with SCFA include improvement of mineral absorption, enhancement of digestive function and immune health. As a prebiotic fiber, short-chain fructo-oligosaccharide also helps inhibit pathogenic growth through competitive exclusion.

The frozen desserts market is currently comprised of 58% ice cream, 36% frozen novelties, 3% sherbet, sorbet and ices, and 3% frozen yogurt and tofu. Short-chain fructo-oligosaccharides are functional ingredients that offer many benefits to formulators of frozen desserts. Short-chain fructo-oligosaccharides contribute to 1.5Kcal/g and are a highly soluble ingredient that withstands severe processing conditions. Furthermore, short-chain fructo-oligosaccharides do not participate in Maillard browning, preserving protein quality.

The prebiotic has been known to enhance flavors, mask off-notes and work synergistically with high-intensity sweeteners, thus proving opportunities for cost savings. Another unique benefit of this ingredient is that it raises the freezing point, allowing frozen desserts to be manufactured at a slightly higher temperature, resulting in a product with smoother texture and improved mouthfeel.

The ingredient can be incorporated into a formulation by replacing part of a bulk ingredient or by proportionally replacing all ingredients in the formula. In the case of frozen desserts, the formulator can replace part of the sugar, water or milk. The prebiotic provides 30% of the sweetness of sucrose.

According to Munteanu, short-chain fructo-oligosaccharides allow for many claim opportunities, including nutrient content claims and structure function claims. Structure function claims in the area of immune health can be achieved with doses as low as 1g per serving. At this level, manufacturers also can claim improved mineral absorption, improved digestive health and prebiotic benefits.

In summary, short-chain fructo-oligosaccharides are prebiotic fibers that enhance health by supporting the immune system, improving mineral absorption and enhancing digestive health. The fiber also provides a variety of formulation opportunities and is easy to use in frozen dessert applications.

“Frozen Desserts Enhanced with Prebiotic Fiber to Boost Immune Health,” Cristina Munteanu,,
—Summary by Elizabeth Mannie, Contributing Ed.

Product Development Advances

Tricks and tools for speeding up the product design and development process were shown by Judy Lindsey, vice president/general manager at Product Dynamics. Remember the last time you said, “You want it when? You have got to be kidding!” She explained that this happens because competitors introduce an unexpected new product, capital spending needed for a planned new product has been cut, management changes or customers want signature products for next quarter’s promotion. In order to be prepared, it is important to understand the process and both what helps and hinders progress.

One thing that helps is to have the team aligned early in the process. A scoping document that contains all requirements, expectations and limitations—including size, number, ingredients, consumer involvement, nutrition, packaging and other attributes—helps make sure the team will have the same goals. Developed by cross-functional members, the document clarifies understanding.

“Time boxed” prototyping with the entire cross-functional team is a method that gives all members of the team a defined time to showcase their wild ideas. Upon completion, the list is narrowed down to realistic options. Deeper understanding is gained for areas of the project that will be more challenging. Manufacturing involvement provides understanding of the scope of what is being looked at and why, as well as ideas for efficient execution. Final prototypes are more easily accepted when manufacturing is involved in the challenge to “find a way” to achieve success.

Proper planning and preparation for the project are key. In desktop modeling, a product is formulated based on facts before hitting the bench. The facts include costs, nutrition, line constraints and ingredient restrictions. Scientific knowledge, experience and known success are applied. Design and development tools help focus efforts on consumer critical areas that extend resources.

Build on experience and utilize ingredients already on the books—known suppliers, complete specifications and previously negotiated costs save time. A proliferation of ingredients slows down the system.

Ingredient suppliers are experts in their fields. Suppliers can be used for specific challenges, component development or initial formulation. For signature items, full development of only one or two SKUs is a good plan. Defining the key attributes and line characteristics can be quickly applied to additional line items.

Early on, focus on the critical and involve manufacturing in preparation of sample products. Solutions can be incorporated into product tests. Individual components can be tested early, and issues then are resolvable before startup. Develop priority areas: tighten requirements in these areas and loosen them in others.

Upfront understanding and alignment goes a long way. Employees do not need to reinvent the wheel, but use existing resources, focus efforts on signature items and consumer critical areas. Next time it will be more like this: “You want it when? Are you sure you don’t want it sooner? I know how to do it faster!”

“You Want it When? Tools and Tricks for Speeding up the Design and Development Process,” Judy Lindsey,,
—Summary by Elizabeth Mannie, Contributing Editor

Flavorful Advice

* Best to add ingredients to curd before stretching in waterless system.
* When using standard mixer, best to add ingredients during molding step.
* Low-pH fruits lose flavor intensity in the string.
* Purees do not incorporate well in either waterless or normal stretcher conditions.
* Adding citric or malic acid brings out more flavor, cheese is softer.
* Water-soluble flavorings work better than oil.
* Secondary fermentation not noticed; some ingredients produce watering-off in package after about one month.
* Normal C:F (casein-to-fat) ratio is best for texture and flavor, even when ingredients are added.
* pH-neutral flavors are more intense and stand out compared to low-pH fruit systems.
* Flavor decreases over time with certain ingredients and sweeteners.
* Artificial sweeteners give more intense sweetness than sugars.
Source: Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research