Tasmanian milk powers the push for high protein snacks in Japan


Dairy farmer Leigh Schuuring farms with his wife Kellie and family in Smithton on the far north-west coast of Tasmania, where the Tarkine wilderness begins and the land meets Bass Strait. 

He never expected that his family’s milk would become a key ingredient in feeding the health needs of Japan’s ageing population, nor that their milk would travel to the island nation of Japan, 8,500 kilometres away.

But that is exactly what is happening to the high-quality milk Leigh’s farm supplies to Fonterra’s Wynyard factory, a 45-minute drive away along Tasmania’s rugged north-west coast.

Fonterra Australia’s Ingredients business has teamed up with one of Japan’s largest food makers to create a specially formulated Whey Protein Concentrate that will be used to boost the protein in popular dairy beverages, yoghurt and snack bars for the Japanese market. By creating these functional foods Japanese consumers can feel good about the combination of nutrition and taste.

Fonterra Australia Managing Director René Dedoncker explains that the Whey Protein Concentrate made from fresh Australian cheese whey was developed for Fonterra’s Japanese customer in less than a year.

“With collaboration from our Australian research and operations teams, it’s a great example of how we are getting higher value out of our Australian farmers’ milk and taking it to the world.”

“Health-conscious Japanese consumers are turning to protein-powered food and beverages in their quest for better health and longer life,” says René.

In Japan, where functional foods have been part of the culture for decades, it’s commonly understood that nutrition can influence good health. Japan boasts the highest life expectancy of any country in the world and research suggests this is largely due to the nation’s healthy diet[1]  and the importance of functional foods.

René says that Australia is seen as a trusted and safe source of dairy due to its clean, green reputation for food safety and quality.

"We have access to over 100 markets around the world, and around 30 per cent of the milk we collect in Australia is exported as nutritional powders, milk and protein powders, and cheese. Growth prospects for dairy protein ingredients across Asia are strong, and we are excited to be playing our part in growing the Australian dairy industry,” says René.

It appears the world is eager for protein, as the global protein ingredients market is forecast to grow by more than 7 per cent to reach US$43.3 billion by 2024[2].

Fonterra’s specially formulated protein ingredient will start rolling off the line at Wynyard in August 2017, and within days will be shipped to Japanese shores where it will be included as a key ingredient in popular food and beverage snacks.

Leigh’s milk was recently awarded Dairy Australia’s 2017 Gold Milk Quality Award positioning his milk supply as one of Australia’s top 100 for quality. “You don’t always think about what happens to the milk once it leaves the farm. Knowing where our milk goes gives us a sense of accomplishment,” says Leigh.

“The quality milk we make feeds people around the world, and that’s something we’re really proud of.”

[1]  British Medical Journal, 22nd March 2016

[2] Fonterra media release: NZMP benefits from protein’s popularity with South-East Asian consumers 24/4/17