Kefir, which orginates from the Caucasus region in Russia, is popular in Eastern and Central Europe but is also gaining awareness among West European consumers for its probiotic and nutraceutical properties.
The fermented milk contains a mixture of several live microorganisms and has many of the nutrients required by the body: proteins, minerals and vitamins. Its acidity and enzymes stimulate protein digestion and appetite and decreases the cholesterol content in blood, according to research. It is also thought to stimulate microphage production, improving immunity.
Rhodia has developed two cultures under its FloraFIT range, combining its NCFM Lactobacillus acidophilus strain with those of freeze-dried kefir, for use in products like sour cream, buttermilk, kefir and fermented milk. Kefir and fermented milks are often included in the same category as probiotic drinks.
The new culture is currently being used by Poland's largest dairy Mlekpol Grajewo in a new plain kefir under its Milko brand.
"We are now testing these cultures in other European countries where the taste and health properties of this new range raise a lot of interest," said Mark Smith, health & nutrition business development manager for Rhodia Food in Europe.
Designed to meet European dairy market needs in terms of acidification, textureand taste, the FloraFIT MK range provides a milder taste and a longer shelf life (three weeks) than traditional kefir. They are also highly suited for low-fat products and they develop a creamy texture without adding stabilisers, according to Rhodia.
FloraFIT MK range of cultures have been specially blended to provide a minimum of 1 million cells of NCFM per ml of fermented milk at the end of three weeks' shelf life.
New strains with a more traditional kefir flavour will be added to the range in coming months.