Whey is a hot item right now , says Rick Kaepernick
, vice president/general manager of whey for the Hilmar , Calif.-based company
.It's an especially good market in the Western United States because there are a lot of consumers interested in staying healthy and using protein supplements made from whey..
What is whey.Milk contains casein and whey protein , among other nutrients.During processing , casein is used to make cheese , while whey proteins remain in the liquid.We capture the whey liquid and separate whey protein and lactose from it.
Then it gets dried into a powder , Kaepernick
explains.It contains a high amount of protein , which can be used in all sorts of food ingredients , including nutritional supplements..
Hilmar's venture into the whey market began nine years ago when the company was looking to grow its cheese business and get the most out of milk during processing.Kaepernick
says , At that point , our whey business consisted of selling liquid whey to dairymen as a food source for cows.We were interested in expanding whey usage to other applications..
The cheese manufacturer found a strategic partner , Proliant ( formerly known as AMPC Inc.
) of Ames
, Iowa , to do the sales , marketing and application work for whey.Hilmar started its protein plant in 1991 and built its first lactose plant in 1994.We've seen remarkable growth , Kaepernick
says.We're now one of the largest producers of protein and lactose in the world..
Eighty-five percent of the whey protein the company manufacturers is used in the United States , while 15 percent is exported.For lactose , the situation is reversed : 15 percent of the lactose is used domestically , while 85 percent is exported.
Kaepernick points out that there probably is a shortage of whey proteins now , but that , like any trend , it's cyclical.We have to be careful , because just a year ago the protein markets were at their lowest.So it's important for us to be diversified and continue to look for new markets..
Any time we can use a product a lot of different ways , it helps everyone , Kaepernick
says.We're continually striving to find new markets and new opportunities for milk producers..AM.