Arla Foods has discovered a new way of reducing the fat content of fresh cheese from 9% to 3%, without affecting its 'creaminess'.
After joining forces with the University of Copenhagen and Leatherhead Food Research, the company developed a method that analysed the effects of processing conditions on the microstructure and sensory attributes of fresh cheese. Fresh cheese has a high water content and a short shelf-life compared to hard cheese. Cottage cheese is an example of a fresh cheese and is made with up to 9% fat.
"Using a confocal laser scanning microscope, which produces high resolution images of the microproteins in cheese, it was possible to compare data and analyse the effects of different processes on cheese," said Ulf Andersen, head of flavour, functionality and process analytical technology at Arla Foods. He was speaking at Food Ingredients Europe in Germany.
By linking this data to sensory analysis, Arla Foods discovered that a high pH in connection with a higher salt content produced a creamy fresh cheese with a low fat content. After several trials, it found that fat content could be reduced by as much two thirds without impacting on its perceived creaminess.
"Both the pH and salt content have to be increased simultaneously to achieve this result, one of these on its own will not produce the same level of creaminess," added Andersen.
Conversely, reducing the salt content and pH in cheese would produce a brittle texture.
"I'm not going mad and saying that manufacturers should increase salt to decrease fat. Everyone knows that upping the salt content of foods is not desirable right now, as most players in the industry are working hard with ingredient suppliers to find suitable alternatives to salt and sodium. But what the research does show is that this kind of analysis works as an effective tool for establishing salt and fat optimisation," Andersen added.