Protein could boost nutritional profile of infant formula

By Guy Montague-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Infant formula Milk Arla

After years of pilot production, Arla Foods Ingredients is commercialising a milk protein, osteopontin, for the infant formula market that is found in high quantities in human milk.

Developing products with a nutritional profile that closely resembles that of human milk is a key goal for infant formula manufacturers.

And Arla said that commercialising osteopontin (OPN) is the product of a long-term research project to help formula manufacturers on that quest.

OPN is a key component of human milk but is only found in small quantities in cow’s milk. The ingredients supplier said a litre of human milk contains about 140mg of the milk protein, whereas cow’s milk contains just 20mg.

To improve the nutritional value of infant formula, the company said that it therefore sought to find a way to boost the amount of OPN in products.

And now that process documentation has been completed following years of pilot production, the ingredients supplier said it is ready for industrial-scale processing of the protein,

A spokesperson for Arla told that a successful pilot scale production phase of OPN has already been underway in Asia. Furthermore, he said, Asian producers will be the initial target of the scaling up of the manufacturer of the protein.

Its research efforts have led to the development of a patented extraction process for getting OPN out of whey protein. This extraction process, which requires 30 tonnes of whey for one kilo of OPN, is then followed by further processing, explained the supplier.

Describing this work, Peter Wejse, project manager, said: “In extremely simple terms, what we do is take the needle out of the haystack without damaging the needle or the haystack.”

This could be a significant step forward for the infant formula industry. In an interview with at the end of last year, Tage Affertsholt from 3A Business Consulting cited Arla’s commercialisation of OPN as an example of infant formula innovation that will help grow sales, and secure a valuable reputation for high quality science.

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