People who are lactose intolerant have trouble digesting lactose, the sugar in milk products. Because their bodies don’t produce enough of the enzyme that breaks down lactose, they can suffer mild to severe intestinal discomfort when they consume lactose.

To avoid this, they are generally advised to steer clear of dairy products. It’s a worldwide issue. It is estimated that 75 per cent of us don’t easily digest lactose.

The potential market losses associated with lactose intolerance are significant, and many dairy companies are looking to develop products suitable for lactose-intolerant consumers.

Lactose reduced milk has been around for years, but milk protein concentrate is another story. In a powdered, concentrated form, milk proteins are used as an ingredient in a wide variety of food products, from cheese and yoghurt to infant formulas, soups, sports drinks and protein bars.

In Abbotsford, Vitalus Nutrition has been producing milk protein concentrates for their customers since 1995. But not of the “lactose free” variety.

Vitalus recently launched a project to research the available technologies for developing lactose-free milk protein concentrates. 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.

During the pilot phase and scale up trial, they discovered that they could produce a lactose-free milk protein concentrate using existing equipment. With a lactose level of less than one per cent, this was even better than their target.

“We developed the technology to produce a lactose-free MPC 85,” says Philip Vanderpol, the president of Vitalus. “It provides us with the opportunity to supply an ingredient for the development of functional products.”

The scale lot produced during the trials is now being used as samples for customers as part of the company’s market development strategy.

“This project gives us the opportunity to supply an innovative product to meet the demands of consumers that are health and wellness oriented,” adds Vanderpol, noting that it will open up new markets for Vitalus.

Funding: $24,890 through the Canada – British Columbia Agri-Innovation Program. (INN048)

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