In Britain, we get through almost ¾ million tonnes of cheese and over 300,000 tonnes of hard cheese in processed foods a year. The food industry is caught between feeding our love of cheese and looking for healthier alternatives. Major food producers Greencore and Arla came to Sheffield Hallam University for expert help, looking for a way to reduce salt and fat in their products without compromising on taste.
Greencore Prepared Meals is a major manufacturer of convenience foods for UK retailers. It uses large quantities of cheese in its baked products like quiche and lasagne. They have made progress reducing salt and fat for its convenience food ranges, but it had proved difficult to do the same for baked cheese.
Arla – as one of the UK’s largest producers of cheese for direct retail – was also keen to develop a technology that produces a healthy cheese alternative which can compete in quality performance with existing cheese products.
What we did
We formed a consortium with Arla, Imperial College London and lead partners Greencore — successfully applying to Innovating UK for £579K of funding.
Our project was funded to explore the manufacture of a healthier cheese product for an existing market – baked quiches – and in doing so, develop a technology applicable to the wider cheese ingredients and cheese retail markets.
We used micro-encapsulation technology to reduce salt and fat content of products containing baked cheese by 10% and 20% respectively. This new product could be used as a raw material ingredient in healthy processed convenience foods, and as a stand-alone retail cheese product. We plan to share our findings and technology to the UK cheese manufacturing supply chain. If successful, there is potential for this new healthier cheese to contribute to removing around six tonnes of salt and 96 tonnes of fat consumption in the UK every year.
The project marks the latest development in our relationship with Greencore, who have been a food engineering industry partner for three years now. Since the launch of the National Centre of Excellence in Food Engineering in July 2014, Greencore have been involved in ongoing discussions to identify opportunities for collaboration, including Knowledge Transfer Partnerships and student placements. Helen Sisson, their Technical Director, has been involved from the outset in the Masters in Food Engineering and the National Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering.
We’ve also worked with Greencore to identify ways in which the micro-encapsulation research could be applied to challenges in compliance with salt and fat reduction targets, while maintaining product quality and consumer experience.