Teagasc Supporting Infant Formula Sector
Teagasc, Food Research Centre, Moorepark has generated a research programme that has a central role in the supporting the technological development of the infant milk formula sector in Ireland.
On Tuesday, 19th April, over 70 industry representatives attended a RELAY workshop held in Moorepark. Among the topics discussed were the opportunities to grow the infant milk formula sector, the technical capability within Teagasc and UCC and the research facilities underpinning the sector.
The global market for infant milk formula is estimated to be worth in the region of $5-6 billion and Irish based companies trade approximately 15% of the infant milk formula tonnage internationally.
Brian McNulty, Bord Bia told the audience that the Chinese market offers significant opportunities; the Chinese infant formula market is growing at about 10% per annum and is in the region of 332,000 tonnes and expected to be 588,000 tonnes, 25,000 tonnes for protein powders and 4,000 tonnes of sports formula. Imports are also expected to increase for dairy ingredients from 15% for whey powder to an 84% increase for whole milk powder.
Ireland is very well positioned to supply this market; it produces a broad product portfolio, has a highly developed specialised ingredient capability and three of the key multinational players are located in the Republic of Ireland as well as very strong R&D capability and facilities.
Teagasc’s infant formula programme is built around experienced researchers such as Dr. Mark Fenelon. Dr. Fenelon’s expertise includes formulation science and associated processing technologies. His work is supported by the Biofunctional Food Engineering Facility which is a small scale infant formula manufacturing plant. He is currently working on a FIRM project which is examining ways of re-engineering infant formula manufacturing processes to reduce cost and improve efficiency. The capability and facilities at Teagasc Moorepark are the basis for building strategic research capabilities for multinational companies many of which have manufacturing sites in Ireland
Teagasc’s National Food Imaging Centre also supports highly specialised ingredient development through a microscopic understanding of powder size and shape, crystallisation behaviour as well as protein aggregation and fat distribution. In parallel, capability in flavour chemistry analysis provides industry with solutions to measure off-flavour, aroma profiles and levels of oxidation. These facilities are key tools which can help industry improve product quality and shelf-life.
Teagasc is working closely with their colleagues in UCC through the UCC/Teagasc strategic alliance. The research and equipment presented at the RELAY workshop has been funded by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and the Marine through the FIRM programme.