The U.S. Dairy Exporter Blog: Market Analysis, Research & News
  • MPC: An Ingredient Whose Time Has Come

    By Véronique Lagrange June 10, 2013

    It is time to embrace milk protein concentrates (MPCs).

    Scratch that.

    It is past time to embrace MPCs.

    MPCs and their higher protein cousins milk protein isolates (MPIs), made from U.S. milk, are growing and vibrant ingredient categories with bright futures both in the United States and in export markets.

    However, because MPCs are a relatively recent addition to the dairy ingredient portfolio and conform to no single product definition, and few countries report official data, they are often misunderstood. And accurate analysis is difficult to find.

    To fill the information gap, the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) has conducted a number of studies on MPCs since 2005, outlining market size, production, trade and global opportunities for U.S. suppliers. USDEC has also worked with the farmer-funded Dairy Research Institute and the Dairy Research Centers to identify the nutritional value of MPCs and expand their functionality.

    All the research points to positive trends in production, utilization, and domestic and international opportunity.

    The United States already is a major manufacturer of MPCs. We produce about 49,000-55,000 metric tons per year, second only to Oceania’s annual output of 87,000-92,000 metric tons per year.

    We have an edge over Oceania as a supplier in that New Zealand MPC production is highly seasonal due to the region’s pasture-based milking system. End-users have acknowledged that the U.S. dairy industry offers a more reliable supply alternative for MPCs.

    Trade flows are moving in our favor. Over the last eight years, U.S. imports have been relatively steady at an average of 58,500 metric tons per year, while exports since 2005 have more than tripled to nearly 40,000 metric tons last year. Nice growth indeed, which doesn’t include the harder-to-track increased sales by U.S. suppliers domestically.

    Major foreign markets for U.S. MPCs include Mexico and the Middle East.

    Two of the reasons for the rise in trade are favorable tariff classifications and labeling rules in most markets. A bigger reason is MPC’s versatility and nutritional content.

    Although significant volumes of MPC are used in making cheese and cheese-based derivatives like sauces and powders, higher-value applications are increasingly becoming the norm.

    Higher-protein MPCs (MPC70, MPC85) already make up well over half of global utilization of milk protein concentrates by volume and that number is growing due to their protein content, excellent amino acid profile, and research-driven advances in solubility, shelf-life and flavor. USDEC estimates that nutrition products currently represent 30-40 percent of global MPC demand and rising.

    At the April American Dairy Products Institute (ADPI) meeting in Chicago, Nestlé (the world‘s largest food company) said MPCs/MPIs get the “first look” in new nutrition product formulations.

    The recent recommendation from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization to measure protein quality using the Digestible Indispensable Amino Acid Score (DIAAS) should accelerate demand. DIAAS gives MPCs a 30-percent advantage over all competing proteins, a key selling point in many high-value medical and child-nutrition applications, and an important point for the management of malnutrition worldwide.

    Pending Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status for MPCs should further drive their use in meal replacement, sports nutrition and clinical nutrition products. GRAS status does not establish an ingredient’s safety—MPCs are safe and no prohibitions exist for their use in foods and beverages. The benefit of GRAS status is purely a marketing one. Food formulators—especially those manufacturing and marketing nutrition products—prefer that the ingredients they use are GRAS as it is an additional endorsement of their end product.

    The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy®, established by dairy farmers through the dairy checkoff program, initiated the GRAS notification to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as part of its efforts to assist the U.S. industry to become more globally competitive. USDEC and ADPI worked together to compile the notification, as well as address FDA questions about MPCs.

    The bottom line is that the 1990s’ concerns that saw MPCs as simply an imported “adulterant” and detrimental to the industry are flatly untrue. The United States is already a major global MPC/MPI supplier and we are growing. As research uncovers more uses for MPCs and more details on the ingredient’s nutritional benefits, and nutritional product manufacturers grow increasingly comfortable incorporating them into their product development plans, we will see the category blossom. And that is good news for the U.S. dairy industry.

    (This article first appeared in Cheese Market News in June 2013.)

    The U.S. Dairy Export Council is primarily supported by Dairy Management Inc. through the dairy farmer checkoff that builds on collaborative industry partnerships with processors, trading companies and others to build global demand for U.S. dairy products.   



    Research & Data Milk Protein Concentrate (MPC) Nutrition
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