Making cheese that people come back for. From the start this has been the ambition of Westland Kaas. And now they are applying the same goal to the vegetable-protein cheeses that the family business is developing with Wageningen Food & Biobased Research. 'The new cheeses must taste as good as our ‘ordinary’ cheese', emphasizes R&D Director Ingeborg Haagsma-Boels.
'Just minding the store is not good enough for Westland Kaas; we are doing what we can to create an excellent future for the generations to come. That is why we are committed to sustainable innovation. For example, we started using meadow milk in 2016 and since then we have used only meadow milk in our top brands Old Amsterdam and Maaslander. In 2011 we introduced resealable 'envelope packaging' for our range of cheeses, and via our Trenta cheese - where 75% of the animal fat is replaced by vegetable oils - we are growing in countries like Italy and Spain.'
Reducing our carbon footprint
'Animal protein has a high CO2 footprint. We are reducing our environmental impact by creating cheeses using vegetable protein. The challenge is to maintain the same taste experience as cheese with animal protein. Which protein you use makes quite a difference to the smoothness, creaminess, bite and taste.
Wageningen Food & Biobased Research helps us search for (combinations of) vegetable proteins that mirror –as closely as possible – the properties of animal proteins. It was relatively easy to choose for Wageningen: I have known the organisation since I was a student and regularly meet their scientists at workshops and conferences. The specialists who work there have a tremendous depth of knowledge around influencing the properties of ingredients and textures. They have a good feel for the do's and don'ts of applications, which increases our chances of success in the market. Although ‘Wageningers’ do not profile themselves as dairy experts, they do have a really fresh perspective on proteins.
Wageningen Food & Biobased Research has conducted an exploratory literature review for us – we have a too-limited access to the scientific literature – and, based on their results, we have drawn up a number of research directions. They will make prototypes for us, and we will test them with consumers. The next step, in 2019, will be to take the most promising prototype into the feasibility phase. There we will look more deeply, together with an industrial partner, into issues such as cost price and production upscaling.'
On the same wavelength
'I am very happy with the collaboration. Because Wageningen Food & Biobased Research is part of Wageningen University & Research, we get partner access to an extraordinary amount of top-class expertise and knowledge. Moreover, they immerse themselves in their client: when I come with a question, they immediately know what I mean and what I want. I need only explain something once. What I also greatly appreciate is that they involve us in initiatives outside of our project. As a result, I have been approached for a reformulation project and Westland are now partners in a public-private partnership.
I am confident that we will succeed in making a tasty, creamy cheese using vegetable protein; a cheese that consumers will come back for, just like they do for Maaslander, Old Amsterdam and Trenta.'