Dairy giant Fonterra has developed a range of products including instant cheese and high protein cracker-like snacks which it hopes will drive the company's next stage of growth.
The dairy co-operative this morning showcased six products in the final stages of development in its Palmerston North research and development centre. 'Cheese powder' which by adding water turns into a cheese solid after 30 minutes, a glitter high-protein drink designed for those on the go and a medical recovery drink were showcased to a small group at the Fonterra's Auckland office.
Fonterra has been at work on the protein for an instant cheese product for 15 years, though the country's largest company was tight-lipped on its plans to commercialise the product. An ingredient in the cheese powder (which surprisingly tastes like regular cheese) has already been patented and Fonterra said the product would suit developing countries without access to refrigeration, and could be popular in the trapping market.
The science behind the ingredient for the cheese is a 'milk powder concentrate' whereby milk is put through a filter to concentrate the proteins.
Fonterra research and development consumer brands general manager Andy Smith said the company was exploring opportunities to take the product to market here and overseas, including in Asia and the Middle East.
Smith said an instant cheese product was not yet available anywhere in the world.
"For a lot of markets this actually isn't just a gimmick," Sheelagh Hewitt, Fonterra research scientist and food chemist, said. "There's a huge proportion of China which doesn't yet have stable refrigerator cool chains."
Fonterra said it had already discussed instant cheese with contacts in "a number of markets" which had expressed interest the product. "We're now taking it to the next stage of what it will look like as a consumer proposition and [exploring] what are the key features and benefits it needs to bring to the table."
The company said instant cheese would open up opportunities beyond "where traditional cheese goes" and would "expand the category rather than replace it."
High protein snacks
Other products Fonterra had began developing in its lab are high-protein cheese snacks which could come in sweet and savoury flavours.
Fonterra manager of science nutrition Aaron Fanning said there was an emerging trend in how people were consuming food, with many in China and South East Asia moving away from three set meals each day towards smaller meals and snacks often, which why the company had begun to develop high-protein snacks.
Fonterra has developed a 20g snack with 10 grams of protein on it - around 40 to 50 per cent of the product is protein, the equivalent to a glass of milk per serve. It hopes that a similar product on the market would become an alternative to a bag of potato chips or muesli bar.
While the size and shape of such a product has not yet been finalised, it had already developed raspberry, passionfruit, cheese and mix nuts and seeds flavoured snacks. It began developing and testing this about three years ago.
Glitter protein drinks, medical meal drinks
Another product Fonterra said it had been at work on was a concentrated protein medical drink designed for people who were recovering from surgery or not able to eat a meal due to age or a health related issue. It was designed to be full of protein and the nutritional benefits of a balanced meal.
The drink - which Fonterra said launch this year - was being developed by the company's ingredients business NZMP. Fonterra said it would make an announcement about this product later this year. Smith was not able to share further details.
Fonterra has revisited the idea of clear dairy or "clear milk".
Clear milk is regular white milk with the fat removed - the concept is common overseas and is often referred to as protein water.
Fonterra previously sold a clear diary product called Whole about 20 years ago but it did not sell and was not well-received by the market. Fonterra said the product was "before its time". Research it conducted in around year 2000 found consumers struggled with the credibility of the drink.
Fonterra has since revisited the concept of a clear protein beverage. Today it showcased a peach flavoured protein drink filled with glitter which it said contained low amounts of carbohydrates, was low in fat and had no sugar with 18g of protein in a 200ml bottle.
A drink of this kind was targeted for consumers who lead an active lifestyle, and could come in a range of flavours and aid muscle recovery. With glitter added it could target the youth market, it said. The Fonterra Takanini team in Auckland are currently looking at ways it could re-launch a similar protein drink.
Other products it has developed and is testing is a lemon-flavoured yoghurt mouse, which could launch under the Anchor brand. The product is said to have more protein than regular desserts.
Another dessert high-protein concept it is testing is high protein brownies through a developed whey protein concentrate which could be used as extra ingredient added to a recipe.
Smith said about 100 product concepts and ideas were under development at Fonterra's Palmerston North R&D centre which aims to add value to its milk.
Smith said he believed the high protein snacks would be popular with consumers as they would slot into emerging trends. He said the snacks would likely be well-received in China and other Asian markets.
"Good nutrition and convenience on-the-go really hits the sweet spot with a lot of consumer needs."
Fonterra said it was still working through the consumer proposition of the six products and did not have a plan of when or whether the products in their current form would be commercialised.
About 350 staff work at Fonterra's R&D centre in Palmerston North.