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Report: Yogurt Companies Hope to Capitalize on Byproduct

A problematic byproduct of the nation's appetite for Greek yogurt could soon be turned into renewable energy or entirely new food products.

A problematic byproduct of the nation's appetite for Greek yogurt could soon be turned into renewable energy or entirely new food products.

Chemical & Engineering News this week detailed the potential applications for acid whey, which is left over after dairy companies separate out their Greek yogurt.

The nutrient-laden liquid can cause algae blooms in waterways, so it's largely shipped to farmers for use as fertilizer rather than simply dumped.

Greek yogurt giant Chobani implemented a reverse-osmosis system to remove water from the acid whey β€” and make it easier to ship β€” but recent patent applications reviewed by CE&N showed that yogurt producers are ambitious about making better use of the waste product.
 

Some invested in anaerobic digesters, which utilize bacteria to convert acid whey into methane that can be used to supply electricity to dairy plants or the broader power grid.

Others are looking to capitalize on the byproduct by utilizing its lactose, lactic acid, galactose and calcium phosphate to make additional substances or foods.

University of Wisconsin-Madison dairy scientists used a nanofiltration system to convert acid whey into a concentrated sweetener, while General Mills patent applications detailed plans to use enzymes to produce soluble fiber and to neutralize acid whey's pH to produce food additives.

Danish company Arla Foods Ingredients, meanwhile, told CE&N that its whey protein could be added to acid whey to produce a wide range of new dairy products.

The developments could be a boon for the Greek yogurt industry, which struggled in recent years after its U.S. market share climbed from virtually nothing to 50 percent over roughly a decade.

β€œAcid whey remains an untapped gold mine,” Arla's Claus Andersen told CE&N. β€œIt contains the same minerals as milk, which means it offers the same benefits to bones, teeth and general health.”

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