Consumer perceptions of dairy foods have always been favorable, invoking visions of healthy bones and nutrient-rich, homey products. Dairy ingredients used fittingly can contribute to reductions in hypertension, maintenance of healthy weight and also are the perfect vehicle for nutritionally beneficial probiotic cultures. Cheeses, cheese powders and other dairy ingredients can be found throughout many segments of the food industry, leaving a huge opportunity for nutritional enhancement of foods with dairy.

One important segment of the food industry for dairy ingredients is the school lunch program. Schools, while often on low budgets for lunch menu items, are an important market for the snack industry. “School lunch programs have strict requirements for fat and sodium, often making it difficult for a snack product to be accepted. However, if a snack is accepted in the school system, it will also likely become a hit on the grocery store shelves,” states Heather Anfang, director, Land O’Lakes Ingredient Solutions. “This makes it very important to meet school lunch program requirements, and nutritionally enhanced ingredients often can make the critical difference,” she adds.

Recognizing the trend toward creating healthier foods and leveraging the good name of dairy products, Land O'Lakes Ingredient Solutions is increasing calcium, vitamins A and D, and reducing fat and sodium content in its ingredients. A new, patented technology is allowing the company’s cheese powders to be enhanced with significantly higher levels of calcium than before--without the dry, chalky texture often resulting from calcium fortification.

Many Land O’Lakes’ products also are being reformulated to contain zero trans fat and less sodium. In cheese powders and seasonings, partially hydrogenated soybean oils are being completely replaced with high-oleic canola oils. This substitution allows for no trans fat formulations and often allows for a reduction in total fat. “The higher lubricity and different melt profile of high-oleic canola oil, compared with partially hydrogenated soybean oil, delivers the same rich mouthfeel perception at significantly reduced usage,” states Diane Kussy, Land O'Lakes’ manager of R&D.

Butter and spread blends are being formulated with high-oleic canola oil, soybean oil, palm oil, butter and combinations--depending upon desired flavor profiles and end-use. These updated products deliver the same flavor, texture, mouthfeel, performance and shelflife properties as their original counterparts, as tested by Land O’Lakes’ internal sensory panels, employee acceptance and application testing.

The future will bring ingredients with added probiotics and other components for health and wellness. Land O'Lakes can provide customized ingredient solutions, in-house culinary services, extensive dairy knowledge and a trusted brand name. Additionally, expert R&D analytical, sensory and pilot plant services are available through rtech Laboratories, a business unit of Land O’Lakes.

“According to surveys, Land O'Lakes’ quality is rated significantly higher than our competitors’, and higher than average, offering customers peace of mind,” closes Anfang.

For more information:
Land O’Lakes Ingredient Solutions * Arden Hills, Minn.
800-328-1322 *