Innovation key to development of new UHT dairy products

CEO of Miraka Richard Wyeth has welcomed the collaborative partnership with AgResearch and Plant & Food Research to develop a new family of shelf-stable and healthy whole-food-based beverages that will appeal to high-value segments of Asian markets and create significant new value for the New Zealand food industry.

“This is an exciting next step in our journey to develop value added products for consumers.  Our strategy has been to add more value to our milk and this project gives impetus to Miraka achieving this goal with partners who share the same values.”

AgResearch Science Team Leader Dr Brendan Haigh, who leads the research, says this will be achieved by developing new scientific knowledge and technology around manufacturing of dairy-based UHT milk products which contain plant or vegetable materials.

“This knowledge then provides the basis for the development of natural shelf-stable products that taste great, yet retain all of the natural health benefits that the dairy and plant material ingredients bring. There is strong consumer interest in whole-food-based products providing balanced nutrition with minimal processing.”

The project has been funded in the recently announced Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s 2015 science investment round which helps boost New Zealand’s productivity and competitiveness.

New Zealand is well placed to maximise marketing opportunities and potential returns from unlocking such innovative new products in the hybrid UHT category. Benefits from the successful development of these products will accrue both on-farm and off-farm, spanning the dairy, arable, and horticulture sectors.

“The project team’s role is to find effective combinations of plant-based ingredients with fresh milk to achieve the stability and functionality required, with no addition of highly refined stabilisers, emulsifiers or thickeners,” says Dr Haigh.

“However, to achieve these benefits, we need to better understand how these diverse ingredients interact in these hybrid solutions, what needs to be done to overcome stability and compatibility issues, then finally, how we manufacture these products on a large scale to generate a product with strong customer appeal.”

“Developing new dairy foods with consumer appeal and that also deliver the wellness characteristics of plant ingredients is a technical challenge,” says Dr Lee Huffman from Plant & Food Research.

“The strength of this project is the combined expertise of AgResearch and Plant & Food Research along with the processing and market knowledge of Miraka. We’re excited by the potential that this new collaboration between the three organisations presents.”

Media contacts
AgResearch contact: Alex Fear 021 773 674
Miraka contact: Lyn Harrison 027 245 2477
Plant & Food Research contact: Emma Timewell 021 242 9365