Hokitika-based Westland Milk said it was near the end of its pilot study on the feasibility and economics of developing a segregated A2 beta protein milk supply within the company.

Most cows produce the A1 and A2 versions of beta-casein protein, but about 30 per cent of the world's herd produces just the A2 variety.

NZX-listed a2 Milk has long enjoyed first mover status with its A2 beta-casein protein milk, sourced from Canterbury-based Synlait Milk.

"Although still in its final stages of evaluation, the study has already helped us understand what is required in terms of processes to manage the segregation of different milk sources – from on-farm supply to tanker transport, to factory reception and separated processing, to customer shelves," Westland Milk chief executive Toni Brendish said.

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Fourteen Westland Milk suppliers participated in the study, with trial runs of separately collected A2 milk, processed into segregated A2 products, carried out in early April.

"We have also learned that segregated milk processing in our existing factory is possible and, whether it is A2 or another product, we have the opportunity to produce differentiated, separately processed products at the high value-added end of the market," Brendish said in comments supplied to the Herald.

"When we receive the full evaluation in the next few months we will make recommendations to our board on the potential for A2 and other differentiated, segregated, products," she said.

A handful of other players have been climbing on the A1-beta free bandwagon in recent months.

International food giant Nestle has launched an A1 beta free infant formula in China.
Early this year, Happy Valley Milk was granted resource consent to build a factory near Otorohanga that will focus on making A1-free formula.

In February, dairy co-operative Fonterra said it had formed a strategic alliance with a2 Milk.

The central premise of the A1 beta-free product is that it can be helpful for people who have trouble digesting standard milk.