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New culture blends for feta cheese

Using the new DVS cultures, dairies now have the opportunity to produce traditional white brined cheese with improved texture, while at the same time benefiting from the advantages of direct-to-the-vat production.

Intended for production of traditional white brined cheese like feta and halloumi, the culture blends from Chr. Hansen have been developed in cooperation with Greek manufacturers of traditional sheep and goat milk feta cheese.

“Our launch of the cultures is global and we expect sales in several markets but initially we focus on Greece, the Balkan countries and Turkey,” said Chr. Hansen cheese cultures marketing manager, Nanna Borne.

“Long term, we want to promote the cultures to Middle Eastern dairies as well. Also, the Australian market has shown interest in the new cultures.”

A growing cheese segment

According to GNPD Mintel data the number of new feta cheese products has been climbing steadily throughout the past decade, and in 2008 there was a virtual boom in new feta cheese products. South Africa, the US and Greece account for the vast majority.

Of the 14 million tonnes of global cheese production, 7% falls into the feta category. Feta is a major cheese type in the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa regions, accounting for one third of total cheese production in this region.

Improved texture and shelf life

“Compared to traditional bulk starter cultures, which are usually based on pure thermophilic strains, the new blends from Chr. Hansen give the cheese a better texture thanks to the mesophilic strains,” explained Chr. Hansen Greece business dairy manager, Christos Tsitsos.

“Traditional white brined cheeses are matured for one to three weeks and during storage there is a risk of having yeast growth on the cheese. When using culture blends based on both mesophilic and thermophilic strains, the risk of yeast attack is eliminated due to a better controlled acidification of the cheese under production.”

“Another key benefit for the dairies lies within the culture production technology,” Borne pointed out. The freeze-dried feta cultures are delivered in Chr. Hansen’s Direct Vat Set (DVS) packaging format, in a package size which fits an average vat size of 1000L – the most common vat size in Greek feta production.

The DVS dairy cultures are highly concentrated and standardised freeze-dried cultures used for direct inoculation of the cheese milk. The cultures need no activation or other treatment prior to use and offer a number of advantages in terms of flexibility of use, consistent performance, possibility of using customised culture blends, and no investment in bulk starter equipment.

“Producers of white brined cheese get some new tools to optimise their production, as they have new freeze-dried DVS starter cultures which are much easier to handle than growing a bulk starter,” said Borne.

“In the Balkan countries – Greece, Turkey and Cyprus – the traditional white cheeses are often seasonal, as they are produced from sheep and goat milk. Therefore it can be difficult to keep the expertise to propagate a bulk starter. Adding the culture directly to the vat is far more convenient.”

Today, more than 25% of all feta cheese is made with starter culture using a direct-to-vat technology.

The new culture blends are named FD-DVS WBC-0125X100U and FD-DVS WBC0225X100U. WBC stands for White Brined Cheese, which is the cheese category which feta belongs to.

The global biotechnology company, Chr. Hansen, provides ingredients to the food, dairy, dietary supplements, and agricultural industries. The com-pany supplies food cultures, probiotics, enzymes, colours and functional systems, which are used in food and beverage applications, dietary supplements and agricultural products.

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