The launch marks the conclusion of five years modernisation work at the plant with a total investment of €45m (£38.1m) and increases its production capacity to 75,000 tonnes per year.
The tower produces high fluidity sweet whey powder using Lactalis designed Flowhey Drying Technology, which optimises the drying process while minimising the environmental impact.
Whey powders are highly sought-after in the food processing industry due to the bulking and sweetening properties of lactose, and the cost-efficiency of whey protein as a milk substitute.
Lactalis says the composition of the whey it produces (80% lactose, 11% protein) coupled with the technology and extra capacity should enable it to increase supplies for “human nutrition”, including for chocolate, dairy products, biscuits, and processed cheeses, and expand international markets.
Whey is an extremely versatile ingredient and a valuable source of protein with high nutritional value, as well as its high content of lactose. The quality protein is easy to digest and is absorbed quickly, compared to other proteins.
Lactalis produces various whey powders and derivatives, including demineralised whey with reduced salt and minerals, lactose (natural milk sugar), and protein-free whey permeate, for use in baked goods, chocolate and confectionery, dairy, ice cream, infant formula, as well as in clinical and sports nutrition, and pharmaceuticals.
The company’s Flowhey Technology optimises milk sugar (lactose) crystallisation to reduce hygroscopicity (water retention) and avoid caking, lumping, and browning.
It produces powder that is stable at high temperatures and ensures consistent quality.
High fluidity characteristics allow bags to be emptied two to three times faster than standard whey while limiting the release of dust into the atmosphere in the workshops.
“The objective of this process is to stabilize the lactose crystals in an amorphous form while targeting small, regular and homogeneous crystal sizes. This involves setting up specific drying conditions,” according to Lactalis.
The high rate of crystallisation (over 90%, compared with the standard 60-70%) produces powder that is three times more fluid than standard sweet whey powder (3kg per hour as opposed to 1kg in standard), making it easier to use and store and increasing overall process efficiency.
Lactalis Ingredients is a leading whey producer with approximately 60% of sales outside the EU (including in the Asia Pacific region).
The Verdun plant is part of a global network of more than 266 sites, in 51 countries, and employs 140 people.
It produces a range of nutrition products for all dairy categories (whey and milk powders, dairy proteins, milk fats and cheeses).
The company prides itself on sustainability and environmental efforts, and recently announced plans to install charging stations for electric cars and bicycles at Verdun in 2022.
The stations will be powered by photovoltaic panels and reduce the site’s gas consumption by around 10% and CO2 emissions by 2,000 tonnes per year, it said.