Promoting Innovation in Manufacturing

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The European cheesemaking industry is facing the threat of losing a significant proportion of its market as a result of the European legislation which calls for limiting saturated fat and transfat content both in cheese and cheese-based products. The CheeseCoat project will provide the European cheesemaking industry with an innovative technology and therefore significantly improve the market for this industry. The novel concept of the CheeseCoat project is to develop a low-fat cheese processing technology to enable the production of low-fat, Mozzarella-type ingredient cheese with superior texture, flavor and melting qualities. The newly developed low-fat cheese will be suitable for use in pizzas, ready meals, fast food, sandwiches and salads. The primary target markets are the industrial cheese sector for chilled and frozen pizzas and ready meals as well as the retail and foodservices sectors.

Project objectives

The aim of the project is to develop a Mozzarella-type cheese with <3% fat, which is a significant improvement on the currently available 5% fat cheese. Reduced (12% fat) and lower fat content Mozzarella-type cheese are currently available on the market but with very poor qualities of flavor, texture and melting, which widely prevents them from consumer acceptance. Therefore the CheeseCoat project will introduce new innovative starter cultures for improving the flavor and texture of low-fat Mozzarella-type cheeses and optimize appropriate processing conditions of temperature, pH, milk fat and casein-to-fat ratio in the milk. In addition, an innovative oil coating process for improving the meltdown of the low-fat cheese after it is shredded in the meal in preparation will be developed. Based on the scientific findings of the coating process, an oil coating device for successfully coating of cheese shreds will be developed. The scientific knowledge of starter cultures and oil coating of cheese will be improved and hence provide the end consumer with a cheese displaying desired texture, flavor and melting profiles.

The project involves 11 partners from five different European countries. Four different research organizations performs the research work on behalf of three SME associations and three SME companies represented by a cheese producer, a producer of equipment for food and dairy processes as well as producer of food coatings. In addition, a large company representing the end-user of the product is included in the consortium.

Project Status and Results to Date

The results obtained in CheeseCoat so far is summarized below:

  • A processing protocol have been established that allowed to produce low fat, low moisture mozzarella cheese with the desired composition (2-3% fat content and moisture to protein ratio similar to full fat mozzarella).
  • The cheeses developed in this project had clearly superior characteristics compared to the low fat prototype cheeses (3% or 10% fat) which were available at the start of the project
  • Extended ripening times are not required for the cheese developed in CheeseCoat.
  • The properties of the low fat cheese could be further tailored in either direction (firming, less spreading and higher stretch forces, or softening, more spreading and lower stretch forces) by readily implementable technological measures.
  • The functionality of the low fat cheese could also be modified by applying starter and/or adjunct cultures which had been selected from MicroCheese Mozzarella Model trials based on parameters such as proteolytic capacity.
  • The melting behavior of low fat Mozzarella-type cheese can be significantly improved by adding a fat-based coating and different compositions of the coating have a strong impact on the performance.
  • A functional coating based on only dairy-derived ingredients with a shelf-life of at least 2 months has been developed
  • A spray-coating system for smart application of the coating on shredded cheese in food industry have been developed.

These results are very promising and during the second period the project will focus in combining the strategies and optimizing the technologies. The results in the first reporting period have given an increased understanding for the mechanism behind this improved functionality using the different strategies described and this will be further developed during the next phase of the project.

Next Steps

  • Optimization of the coating for scale-up
  • Validation of the CheeseCoat technology at a ready-meal producer.