Technical & economic environment of infant milk powder
The growth in consumption of infant formula milk in the world has been +8% 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 $ 7 billion whereas the segment of infant milk powder represents, in turn, about $ 3.7 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.
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.
A milk for each age
The range of infant formula milks are available in :
- Milk 1st age (0-6 months)
- Follow-on milk (6 to 12 months)
- Milk of growth (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.
A 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.
Microbiological standards applied to infant formula milk are more stringent than for common dairy products : they require an almost sterile product.
Nutritional standards (link to page 19) for infant formula milk, which are already high compared to other foods, will become even more stringent in the future.
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(link to page 19) of their infant formula milk.
With its dedicated expertise (link to page 25), LISA aims to open, for the interested companies, access to such a highly technical production 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.
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This final result can be achieved only through a continuous quality control, orchestrated throughout the manufacturing process.
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
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.
Page 20: 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 (link to the page 25) is used to define precisely the parameters that will deliver the most effective yields, resulting in the optimization of energy consumption.
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 (link to page 3) 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.