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Challenging the status quo in infant formula production

Getting protein content spot on was a challenge for a Dutch producer of infant formula based on goat milk. A new investment made it possible to improve their infant formula testing and ensure optimal use of raw materials.

 

Ausnutria is a manufacturer of infant formula brands produced from goat milk and regular and organic cow milk with production sites at several locations in the Netherlands. The company has over 100 years of experience on the market and is the world market leader within goat milk-based infant formula. 

Ausnutria has seen rapid growth within the last 10 years, not least in Asia, which represents an important market for the company. To keep up with demand, Ausnutria expanded their existing site for dry blending of powders with an ultrafiltration unit to include liquid whey processing. And they are building a new plant. Both sites are planned with a high level of automation to ensure efficient operations.  

Ausnutria processes goat cheese whey, which is a secondary product from goat cheese production. The whey is processed resulting in a whey protein concentrate. The whey protein concentrate is used as a protein source in the infant formula. But it is not without its challenges to move beyond the conventional cow milk. 

The challenges in breaking the norms 
Eric Benjamins is Senior Lead Process Engineer in Ausnutria and has a leading role in developing the new plant. He explains: “Studies show that the digestion rate for goat milk more closely resembles the digestion of human breast milk compared with cow milk. We have a lot of consumers looking for alternatives to cow milk, mainly because of an intolerance to cow milk.” 

However, it was not until 2013 that the EU allowed goat milk as a source of protein in infant formula. And even today, it is not without its hurdles to challenge the status quo in infant formula production. 

“We need to constantly measure the compositional parameters throughout our production process, but because the cow milk industry is much more developed, all laboratory measurement standards are based on cow milk,” he explains. Ausnutria collaborates with a laboratory in the Netherlands, which provides the standards for the adjustment and validation of the calibration models for the liquid dairy analyser MilkoScan FT3 from FOSS. The models are used in Ausnutria’s MilkoScan FT3 to measure parameters such as protein and moisture content throughout the production process. But all available standards from the laboratory were based on cow milk, which is still the norm in infant formula.  

How to overcome challenges and optimise production 
This did not deter Ausnutria, which provided goat milk samples to the laboratory and received support from FOSS in the process. It was a collaborative effort to obtain the right standards for goat milk analytical models. The MilkoScan FT3 was set up for accurate results and optimal performance in accordance with the specific needs of Ausnutria.  

We cannot work without a liquid dairy analyser. We need to determine the starting point for our process. And during our process, we constantly need to check the compositional parameters. Without this analytical solution, we would be operating in the dark. We would not have the direct control we have now,” Benjamins explains as the motivation behind investing in a liquid dairy analyser for the new factory.  

In a production environment, the ideal solution is a plug-and-play solution to optimise operations and reduce the risk of human error, and Benjamins highlights the ease of use as one of the main benefits of the MilkoScan FT3: “Analytical knowledge is very complex, but the instrument itself is very easy to use. The interface is very intuitive, and basically anyone can do it. The instrument is used by our process operators, and the simplicity of use was a positive surprise. It is outstanding.” 

The team at Ausnutria has been very satisfied with the investment in the MilkoScan FT3 which has enabled them to constantly monitor and adjust the production process to ensure optimal use of raw materials and the highest possible yield.  

Looking ahead for further opportunities for operations optimisation 
Ausnutria works with continuous improvement programmes at all their locations and is constantly seeking ways to optimise operations, not least with automation and digitalisation initiatives. It is therefore not surprising that they are also considering the benefits of taking the next step in analytical solutions and using in-line analysis in their production process. “The ability to get real-time data would enable a more stable process. We are working with natural raw materials with fluctuations in properties, and our production process would benefit from constant insight,” Benjamins concludes. 

With their focus on using analytical insight to optimise their production process, it is safe to say that the future for Ausnutria looks bright indeed.

 

Thumbnail picture presenting MilkoScan FT3 on a blue background

MilkoScan™ FT3

The MilkoScan™ FT3 offers a new, intelligent approach to dairy analysis including the power to test a wide variety of liquid and semi-solid dairy products with exceptional uptime and unprecedented consistency of results. Learn more
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