Milking the most out of alt-dairy: Camel and goat milk poised to gain ground in nutrition
28 Feb 2023 --- The dairy space is diversifying as consumers continue to explore alternative formulations to suit their specific health requirements. While cow’s milk is a continuous staple for many, a niche of camel and goat milk nutrition products is coming into clearer focus. Their broad health benefits pose the question of whether there is only one type of dairy that can hold the gold standard of nutrition.
At Gulfood 2023, held in Dubai, UAE, FoodIngredientsFirst spoke with exhibitors at the trade show’s dairy hall to identify new developments in the dairy sector branching out of traditional dairy.
Kendamil’s line of halal and kosher goat milk-based early-life nutrition products comprises an infant formula, a follow-on milk and a toddler milk.
“Goat milk is still quite a niche product. If you look at western countries, like the US and UK, you’re probably looking at around 2-3% of the market,” highlights Dylan McMahon, director at Kendamil’s Kendal Nutricare division.
“It is growing in popularity because the short-chain fatty acids are shorter in goat milk than cow’s milk, so it’s easier to digest. People talk about it being potentially closer in resemblance to breast milk. But at the end of the day, 95% of our sales are still in cow’s milk,” he explains.
Easily digestible proteins in goat’s milk
Kendamil’s goat milk is marketed as an A2 milk, a label claim that consumer awareness has been picking up in recent years. In 2021, Swiss food testing company SwissDeCode launched the “A2 INSIDE Label,” a label intended to help the end consumer identify the efforts of dairy producers in guaranteeing authentic A2 milk products.
A2 milk mostly lacks a form of β-casein proteins called A1 and instead has mostly the A2 form. This is said to improve its digestibility, making it friendlier for the stomach.
“A2 proteins are what you find in goat milk naturally. That’s something that people are educating themselves on – it’s the reason why a lot of parents try goat milk. Cow’s milk might not always work for parents, such as in the case of their child suffering from colic or constipation.
“I think the market is continuing to educate itself, but it is a premium product for obvious reasons. The supply of goat milk is still quite challenging.”
Kendamil goat milk combines A2 whole goat’s milk with a plant-based blend of DHA and ARA from plant sources, while other traditional baby formulas source these nutrients from fish oil. “It’s not even just fish oil, DHA is commonly taken from a product called offal, which is what’s left of the fish once the meat is taken away,” notes McMahon.
“Fish don’t naturally contain DHA. They eat plants that have DHA inside them, then industry uses the fish as it’s cheap. What we do at Kendamil is that we go naturally to the unique source – algal oil – which makes us really different in smell and taste to other products.”
The myth of babies’ absence of taste preferences
A common “myth” is that children can’t taste or don’t have any flavor preferences, highlights McMahon.
“Anyone who’s fed a baby a weaning product and seen them spit it back or throw the food can tell that the tastebuds develop very early. Not only that, babies’ taste is quite sensitive.”
McMahon notes that formula producers have largely been using vegetable oils in place of whole milk, mainly because vegetable oils are cheaper. “That’s why we’ve begun seeing corn syrup, maltodextrin, palm oil or soya oil – cheap ingredients used as filler, which are technically fat, but it’s not very natural.”
“In Kendamil, you have natural whole milk. When you open up the can, it’s golden in color while it smells and tastes creamy.”
Camel milk, a new superfood?
Camel milk, another nutritionally packed cow’s milk alternative spotlighted at Gulfood, was presented by Camelait.
“Camel milk powder, fresh camel milk and camel coffee sticks are the products we offer,” details Jeroen Wasserval, head of business unit and export manager at Camelait.
Camelait sources from two of its own farms comprising around 3,000 camels, which are milked around three times a day.
“The specific thing about camels is that they can only be milked once every two years and they only give seven liters per day, whereas a cow can be milked every year and it gives you 30 liters per day,” highlights Wasserval.
“Camel milk is super rich in proteins and iron, which makes for a really healthy product to drink. People seeking to boost their health and those who are lactose intolerant are the target consumers.”
Camelait currently exports to the US, Europe, China, Malaysia and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries. It sells its fresh camel milk product at supermarkets in Dubai.
“In China, in particular, camel milk is considered almost a medicine,” notes Wasserval. “This is something beneficial, which you would give to your parents to keep their bones strong and healthy. It’s a new natural superfood.”
Powdered dairy flavors for snacks
In dairy flavor highlights, US-based farmer-owned cooperative producing dairy Land O’Lakes was on the showfloor exhibiting its range of milk-based seasonings for savory snacking.
“We are operating with a more than 102-years heritage, producing a speciality powder dairy ingredient seasoning for snacks, such as extruded corn chips and popcorn,” says Yeong Lai Peng, international sales account manager.
“Each year, we present snacks manufacturers with a new innovative flavor, inspired by international flavor trends from markets in Asia, the Middle East and the US. We have a truffle cheese seasoning and tamarind barbecue. Tamarind is notably trending, particularly for its therapeutic benefits and antioxidants,” she details.
“Our most common flavor is sour cream and onion, but we also have flavors of cheddar cheese and brown butter flavor for popcorn, which has a caramelized taste profile.”
Speaking about the differences between Land O’Lakes’ target markets of Asia, the Middle East and the US, Lai Peng notes that regional variations in flavor preferences are mainly to do with cravings for herb and spice blends in Asia and the particular appetite for cheesy profiles in the US.
“In the Middle East, we are actually a combination of both [herby and cheesy profiles] because it’s a very international market. We exchange our understanding of trends across regions, leveraging our knowledge about typical consumer taste palates of these markets.”
Land O’Lakes is currently setting its sights on expanding into the Asia-Pacific snacks market.
By Benjamin Ferrer, reporting from Gulfood in Dubai
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