The dairy industry’s biggest export success may also be the cause of its greatest future concern, as whole milk powder can now be replicated by precision fermentation methods. The process is similar to beer brewing, and uses microbial cells to grow proteins, fats or vitamins and produce identical molecules to Whole Milk Powder. Anna Benny, technical account manager at The Kellogg Rural Leadership Scheme, says that the dairy industry is ripe for disruption because it is over reliant on exports of whole milk powder. Whole milk powder could be replaced by proteins produced from this precision fermentation, which in future will be cheaper and more climate friendly. Anna Benny says that in 2020 exports of whole milk powder were worth nearly $7.57 billion to the economy with New Zealand supplying 60% of global whole milk powder exports to China for anything from yoghurt to Kit Kats. Anna Benny believes many farmers are disconnected from what happens inside the processing plant and while they make a lovely natural product it mainly becomes a powder. So When dairy products become ingredients in processed food items, they are treated as just commodities and competed only on price. Anna Benny believes this challenge is much bigger than the industry thinks… and where dairy is anonymously used as just a functional ingredient, and a cheaper option becomes viable the manufacturers will choose that.
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