Dairy prices have skyrocketed this year, partly due to the rising cost in animal feed. According to the University of Wisconsin's dairy marketing programme, the average price of wet condensed skim milk in Northwest USA was $2.15 per lb in October 2007 - more than double the price one year earlier.
Such a story has a bearing on all dairy products and derivatives used throughout the food production and supply chain.
ADM is offering a new set of tools to help companies who need to use protein in their products reduce their costs. It says that the new Pro Fam soya isolates and Arcon soya concentrates can work out at around 20 per cent cheaper than skim milk powder and caseinates in the current climate.
The ingredients have been developed to have the same emulsifying functionality as dairy proteins in applications like yoghurt-type products, frozen desserts, biscuits, cakes and imitation mozzarella cheese.
They work by binding water and the emulsifying fat in such as way as to have no impact on the end product, in appearance or other technical parameters.
Crucially, they can be manufacturers do not need to invest in a whole new set of kit to enable product reformulation.
A spokesperson for the company explained that Pro Fam isolates contain a minimum of 90 per cent protein on a dry basis, and are suitable for use in sensitive applications like yoghurts and ice cream.
Arcon concentrates, on the other hand contain 70 per cent protein, and some of the dietary fibre is retained in the processing. These are particularly suitable for use in baked goods, where any change in mouthfeel brought about by the fibre would not be discernible.
The development of innovative ingredients to be used in place of expensive commodities is a big challenge for ingredient suppliers.
Solae recently announced the introduction of its Suproplus 9000 and Suproplus 9040 products isolated soy proteins, which are also targeted as dairy replacement ingredients.
Palsgaard is also offering an alternative to dairy ingredients for ice cream with its IceTriple emulsifier-stabiliser system, which it says allows for a 20 to 25 per cent reduction in total milk solid content in a standard ice-cream, depending on the recipe and processing conditions.
CP Kelco, meanwhile, is looking into the use of its GENU pectins in yoghurts to replicate the viscosity and creaminess more normally provided by dairy proteins obtained from skimmed milk powder or whey.
Some of the major food manufacturers indicated to FoodNavigator.com recently that reformulation to save costs is on their agenda.
Unilever said it is reformulating products in response to high commodity prices, but a spokesperson was unable to say whether any new ingredients specifically designed for this purpose are being factored in.
Likewise, Nestle told FoodNavigator.com that it was "early to recognise the changes in the input cost environment."
Reformulating of a few products was amongst the package of measures it took - and "product renovation" is said to be part of Nestle's commitment to continuously improve the nutritional value of its products.
A spokesperson said that price increases of raw materials might support product reformulations but are by no means the driver of this long-term process.
Northern Foods told the Financial Times that it is not considering reformulation to counter commodity prices at the present time.