Technical & economic environment of infant milk powder

The continuum of growth in global demand for infant formula milk

The growth in consumption of infant formula milk in the world has been +11% for several years, and is still expected to be, the strongest growth being recorded in Asia. The global market for infant milk is amounted  to some $ 12 billion whereas the segment of infant milk powder represents, in turn, about $ 6 billion.

 

Unlike other food products, the demand for infant formula proves immune to economic cycles. It is driven by population growth and improved living standards in emerging markets, by nutritional concerns towards babies and young children, medical advices and more and more care to give food specially adapted to their age.

 

Highly technical formulations

Unlike generic milk for adults, infant milk formulations are present in different ranges and specialties. Designed for every age and need, they must be closely adapted to the physiology of each child.

 

highly technical formulations

A milk for each age

The range of infant formula milks are available in :

  • Infant formula (0-6 months)
  • Follow-on formula (6 to 12 months)
  • Growing-up formula (from 1 to 3 years).

 

Specific milks for physiological disorders

Depending on the needs of the child, there are anti regurgitation milks, anti diarrheal milks, milks suitable for all types of allergies, etc.

 

 

Complex composition of an infant milk powder formulaA complex composition

A high end technology is required to develop an infant formula milk from a given nutritional profile. The formulas are much more complex than in conventional milk. They cover about thirty different ingredients (sugars, fats, minerals, vitamins...), which makes the choice of the right ingredients, meaning the right suppliers, a vital point.

 

High standards

Microbiological standards applied to infant formula milk are more stringent than for common dairy products : they require an almost sterile product.
Nutritional standards for infant formula milk, which are already high compared to other foods, will become even more stringent in the future.

 

 

High-tech industrial processes

The technical difficulties caused by the manufacture of infant milk powder are much higher than those encountered in the production of other dairy products for common consumption.

Good sanitary practices

To obtain the microbiological characteristics required for the product, quality management is very important :

  • Stringent sanitary conditions must be established and adhered at the place of manufacture
  • More generally, the entire manufacturing process must be designed or modified to reflect this requirement.

 

The delicate step of spray drying

The complexity of the formulations induce the complexity of drying operations.
In fact, each different formula requires different drying parameters; any change, addition or subtraction of ingredients challenges the parameter settings, which must then be completely redefined.

It is through empirical tests, lengthy and expensive, that most dairy companies determine the drying parameters. To evade from  this complexity, many manufacturers dry some aggregated ingredients, then mix them in the dry phase. However, only the liquid phase mixture, followed by drying under controlled conditions of the complete formulation, ensures consistency and quality in the reconstitution of the feeding bottle.

 

Processes respecting product integrity

The industrialists, actuated by the defense of infant well-being, but also pushed by more stringent legislative standards, need to develop and promote transformation processes (heat treatment, oxidation ...) that preserve all the nutritional quality of their infant formula milk.

With its dedicated expertise, LISA aims to open, for the interested companies, access to such a highly technical production of infant milk.

 

Concepts of quality of infant milk

The objective of infant formula milk is to get closer to breast milk. Thus, the quality of infant formula is defined by at least two aspects:

  • its microbiological quality
  • its nutritional quality.

 

Microbiological quality

Infant formulas powders needs to achieve some very high microbiology international standards including pathogens as Salmonella or Cronobacter sakazakii. A specific Management of the hygienic conditions of processing operations needs to be implemented in order to guarantee the best microbiological level of formulas.

 

Nutritional quality

The nutritional value of infant formula can be assessed in quantitative terms but also, increasingly, in qualitative terms.
To date, internationally accepted standards focused on the quantitative aspect : indeed, an ingredient in the composition was allowed within the limits of a minimum content and maximum content. Tomorrow, the metabolic behavior of the nutritional compound will occupy a dominant place. The protein must be both:

  • digestible, and
  • bioavailable.

The nutritional value of the feeding bottle, a result of industrial choices

 

The nutritional value of infant formula can be assessed in quantitative terms but also, increasingly, in qualitative terms.

If, for the moment, the authorities are content to issue warnings and messages of awareness of these new standards, these recommendations will soon have the force of coercion and will be subject to control.

This new situation has a direct impact on the selection and design of manufacturing processes. It is known that different processing methods are likely to affect the native compounds by modifying their molecular structure. Then appear in newly formed compounds (Maillard compounds, etc.), some of which are potentially harmful to the health of an  infant.

More than ever, vigilance is required by the manufacturers in this field. Proactivity and anticipation, research results and appropriate procedures, the possible need of turning towards a specialist like LISA  must be able to meet this critical challenge which is preserving the infant’s health.

 

Parameters of drying, energy consumption and sustainable development

 

The difficulty, time delays and development costs represented by the drying of a baby milk product encourage manufacturers to settle for status quo on the efficient parameters, from the moment  they get a satisfactory result on a product. They do not seek to optimize these parameters with a view to obtain a better performance.

However, the drying performance is closely linked to energy consumption : the drying towers are indeed high consumers of energy. It is therefore not only an economic issue for the manufacturing units, but is also at the heart of the issue concerning sustainable development.

The expertise held by LISA in the modeling of spray drying is used to define precisely the parameters that will deliver the most effective yields, resulting in the optimization of energy consumption.

 

The expertise held by LISA in the modeling of spray drying is used to define precisely the parameters that will deliver the most effective yields

 

 

Major under-exploited levers of excellence

 

Major under-exploited levers of excellence

Only a few producers of infant formula milk exploit fully their production tool, both in the matter of quality of the finished product as well as the optimization of the manufacturing process and therefore the performance output.

LISA plays the role to help develop the culture of excellence in manufacturing. Many drivers of quality, productivity and profitability should be explored, be they either spray drying as a key step, the supply of ingredients, the selection of subcontractors or redesigning the business model of the entity.

All these industrial optimization levers are in the area of expertise and intervention of LISA.

 

 

Bibliographical references

Schuck P., Roignant M., Brulé G., Davenel A., Famelart MH., Maubois JL (1998). Simulation of water transfer in spray drying. Drying Technology, 16 (7), 1371-1393.

Schuck P., Dolivet A., Méjean S., Zhu P., Blanchard E., Jeantet R. Drying by desorption: a tool to determine spray drying parameters. J Food Eng. 94, 199–204 (2009).

Schuck, P. : Spray drying of milk products: state of the art, International symposium on spray drying of milk products ; 2001/10/16-18 ; Rennes (FRA). Proceedings. 2001.

Schuck, P. : Spray drying of dairy products: a review. New Food. 2006, (1) : 14-20

Vignolles, M.L. ; Lopez, C. ; Madec, M.N. ; Ehrhardt, J.J. ; Mejean, S. ; Schuck, P. ; Jeantet, R. Protein-lactose matrix effects on fat encapsulation during the overall spray-drying process of dairy powders. Australian Journal of Dairy Technology. 2009, 64 (1) : 75-79

Vignolles, M.L. ; Lopez, C. ; Madec, M.N. ; Ehrhardt, J.J. ; Mejean, S. ; Schuck, P. ; Jeantet, R. Fat properties during homogenization, spray-drying, and storage affect the physical properties of dairy powders. Journal of Dairy Science. 2009 : 58-70

Patel, K. ; Chen, D.X. ; Jeantet, R. ; Schuck, P. : One-dimensional simulation of co-current, dairy spray drying systems - pros and cons. Dairy Science and Technology. 2010, 90 (2/3) : 181-210

Jeantet, R. ; Ducept, F. ; Dolivet, A. ; Mejean, S. ; Schuck, P. Residence time distribution: a tool to improve spray-drying control. Dairy Science and Technology. 2008, 88 : 31-43

Schuck, P. ; Piot, M. ; Mejean, S. ; Le Graet, Y. ; Fauquant, J. ; Brule, G. ; Maubois, J.L. Déshydratation par atomisation de phosphocaseinate natif obtenu par microfiltration sur membrane. Lait. 1994, 74 : 375-388

Zhu, P. ; Mejean, S. ; Blanchard, E. ; Jeantet, R. ; Schuck, P. Prediction of dry mass glass transition temperature and the spray drying behaviour of a concentrate using a desorption method. Journal of Food Engineering. 2011, 105 (3) : 460-467

Schuck, P. ; Mejean, S. ; Dolivet, A. ; Jeantet, R. Thermohygrometric sensor: a tool for optimizing the spray drying process. Innovative Food Science and Emerging Technologies. 2005, 6 (1) : 45-50