Plant-Based Dairy Alternatives: Cure To Canada’s Dairy Issue
Canadian food tech companies are driving a rise in plant-based alternative products, from plant-based meats to plant-based milk. But can plant-based dairy alternatives answer Canada’s dairy processing industry problems?
And what will this mean for dairy food production workers?
Let's take a moment to sip on this (pun intended).
The emergence of plant-based dairy alternatives has taken the pressure off the dairy processing industry, with other milk options aside from cow's and goat’s milk now available.
And these non-animal protein substitutes are milking it, forecasting to reach $38B USD in sales by 2024. Once reserved for milk allergy sufferers, non-dairy milk is now all the craze. Just walk into your Starbucks, and you’ll see delicious Oat lattes on the menu.
Non-dairy milk products have become a category in their own right within the dairy processing industry, with oat, almond, soy, coconut, rice and hemp “milk” added to traditional mammal milk products.
Plant-based dairy alternatives have risen in response to allergies such as lactose intolerance and consumers' growing concerns about the environment. But should the dairy processing industry be worried about declining dairy milk drinkers?
Not at this stage.
While processing methods will need to be updated to maintain sustainability, cow's milk remains on the shelves, with plant-based alternatives here to supplement dairy processing. The main barrier for plant-based milk alternatives lies in taste and texture.
However, new processing methods and technologies are constantly being introduced to improve the taste and nutritional value of plant-based milk alternatives.
Big food and beverage manufacturers, well known in the dairy processing industry, like Nestle, Danone and Lactalis, were early to invest in milk alternative product development, making it vital that food scientists, quality assurance technicians and maintenance engineers stay up to date with the latest processing methods and techniques.
Just last year Lactalis announced plans to convert its Sudbury facility into a dedicated plant-based factory, Protein Industries Canada announced a $4.1 million investment into a project with Oat Canada, a rapidly growing oat-based food and beverage manufacturer, and Roquette, a global leader in plant-based ingredients.
With the dairy processing industry constantly evolving, advances in food processing to deliver higher quality products at a lower cost and reduce waste are a constant. Maintenance engineers at dairy processing plants are responsible for implementing the most effective and efficient processing technologies and methods for all stages of production.
Plant-based dairy alternatives introduce new processing techniques.
New processing techniques, such as non-thermal or mild thermal processes, are being explored to provide the inactivation of microorganisms and enzymes without affecting the food attributes.
These processing methods include:
- High-intensity ultrasound
- High-pressure processing
- Pulsed electric field
- Supercritical carbon dioxide
- Ultraviolet radiation
- Microwave heating
- Ohmic heating
Plant maintenance engineers and managers are now responsible for ensuring that plant processes and equipment run smoothly and in the “greenest possible” way, reducing wastage.
There are new technologies helping them do this.
AI technology in plant-based milk manufacturing
Food and beverage manufacturers are under pressure to produce plant-based milk at the lowest cost and highest quality, and artificial intelligence and machine learning are aiding them in this feat.
AI technology can speed up product development. NotCo produces NotMilk, a plant-based milk that mimics traditional dairy milk but is made 100% from plants and was developed through AI technology.
NotMilk’s AI technology matches the recipe of animal-based products at a molecular level and replicates it using plant-based alternatives. The AI programmes put together products that resemble and taste like cow’s milk.
The future for dairy processing professionals
While cow’s milk will still be available in the near future, the dairy processing industry is evolving, and new processing methods, alternative raw materials and AI technology are driving the future.
This, however, doesn't mean dairy plant processing workers should pack in their hairnets, but rather opens up new job opportunities and careers for experienced:
- Food technicians
- Maintenance engineers
- Food technologists
- Quality assurance managers
…looking to expand their knowledge in new techniques and technologies. Let Qtalent help you ‘’milk’” the opportunity by matching you with great job positions perfectly suited to your career goals.
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