Vitalus makes specialty dairy proteins, primarily milk protein used as ingredients in a wide variety of food products, from cheese and yogurt to infant formulas, soups, sports drinks and protein bars.
In 2011, they received funding under the Growing Forward Canada-BC Agri-Innovation Program to develop a lactose-free milk protein concentrate. Focusing on one product line – a concentrate with a protein level of 85 per cent (MPC 85) – they were able to identify the best technology for their operation that would allow them to commercialize production of the product.
“With all the work done in developing the process to produce lactose-free MPC 85, we now offer this as part of our portfolio,” says Pamela Ambriz, the manager for new product development at Vitalus, noting that it is providing new market opportunities for the company.
Building on this success, Vitalus began focusing on developing a prebiotic from milk permeate, a by-product of the ultrafiltration of skim milk production. Most milk permeate goes into animal feed, which doesn’t generate any revenue. But as a prebiotic that can enhance infant formulas, meal replacement drinks, energy drinks and desserts, the company could offer more value to consumers while creating a new profit stream.
Growing Once, Growing Twice…
In 2013, through the Canada-BC Agri-Innovation Program under Growing Forward 2, Vitalus was able to access two additional contributions. The first enabled them to conduct a pilot production trial of the prebiotic, giving them valuable information on process development to match the desired product specifications.
The second helped them tackle the next stage of development, including designing the process and layout for production of the prebiotic.
For Ambriz, funding that supports the continuum of new product development – from research to piloting and then commercialization – will help Vitalus maintain a leading edge in the very competitive value-added dairy processing industry.
“Our next step is to develop a market opportunity,” adds Ambriz. “This is a new market for us, and it will require significant resources.”
Funding: $147,600 through the Canada-BC Agri-Innovation Program under Growing Forward and Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. (INN048, INN102, INN188)