Protein ranks No. 1 for Americans shopping for nutritious foods. And dairy provides excellent results, either in a cold glass of milk or in the dizzying new nonrefrigerated beverage products appearing in retail stores. The Center for Dairy Research (CDR), located on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus and supported by dairy farmer checkoff dollars, with its cutting-edge research, aims to help the dairy industry increase the value of its products and sell more milk.
While many consumers may not realize it, added milk boosts protein levels in many beverages manufactured for extended shelf life — including sports drinks, coffee drinks, fitness waters, diet drinks, nutritional supplements such as Boost and Ensure, fruit smoothies, and even shelf-stable milk served on airlines. For the most part, these products undergo aseptic or sterile processing to preserve the nutrients in milk but remove the need for refrigeration.
Let’s make milk shelf stable
In April, CDR announced its Beverage Innovation Center, one of two centers of its kind in the world. Supported by a $750,000 grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) and $250,000 from Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin, the center aims to erase the competitive advantage for nondairy beverages in the nonrefrigerated food industry.
The Beverage Innovation Center will provide state-of-the-art equipment for dairy entrepreneurs to improve products already on the market and create new ones. The center’s staff of more than 30 world-class researchers and scientists eagerly anticipates outreach to adventurous manufacturers and dairy experts, including farmers.
Look to overcome high costs
Equipment to create aseptic products carries high price tags, and the cost of entry into the industry can inhibit entrepreneurial interest.
With the Beverage Innovation Center buying the needed equipment, processors will face lower risks to experiment with new product lines – a key barrier to milk innovation. In alliance with the beverage center, TURBO (Technology Transfer, University Research and Business Opportunity program) will accelerate the use of new beverages and their successful market entry by providing support and partial payment for consultants to:
• Identify new markets
• Evaluate production costs
• Assess return on investment
In addition, TURBO will offer packaging design and grant-writing assistance to ensure these products get on store shelves and in the carts of consumers. These services complement CDR’s extensive training, technical support, and product development programs and support CDR’s partnerships with the dairy industry to bring innovative, nutritious, and profitable products to the marketplace. They also align with the three-year-old short course on dairy beverages at UW-Madison.
It’s a crown jewel
The Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin proudly support CDR, the crown jewel of Wisconsin dairy, and its new beverage initiative. We encourage you, your co-ops, and other corporations to participate in the Beverage Innovation Center. For many years to come, the center’s actions will promote the solution-focused experimentation that our industry has requested and needed.