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Title:
EDIBLE LACTOSE-CONTAINING COMPOSITIONS AND THEIR USE IN THE MANUFACTURE OF FOOD PRODUCTS
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/1996/033619
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
Compositions containing microcrystals of lactose which are useful as substitutes in food products for lipid components or as substitutes for milk-derived components. The compositions are particularly useful in the manufacture of dairy products, ice cream or spreadable products containing nuts and/or cocoa. The lactose microcrystals are preferably incorporated in food products under conditions where the lactose is not dissolved.

Inventors:
Kunsem�ller
Heinrich
Johannes
Peter
Application Number:
PCT/DK1996/000187
Publication Date:
October 31, 1996
Filing Date:
April 25, 1996
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
Confac, Kunsem�ller
Heinrich
Johannes
Peter
International Classes:
A23C9/00; A23C9/154; A23C15/16; A23C21/00; A23D7/00; A23D7/015; A23G1/00; A23G1/56; A23G9/32; A23G9/44; A23G9/52; A23L27/20; A23L27/30; (IPC1-7): A23C15/16; A23D7/005; A23G9/02
Foreign References:
US4298625A1981-11-03
US4871573A1989-10-03
US3510316A1970-05-05
Other References:
DERWENT'S ABSTRACT, No. 48721B/26, week 7926; & SU,A,622 461 (DAIRY IND RES INST), 17 July 1978.
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Claims:
CLAIMS
1. An edible composition comprising 190% by weight of lac¬ tose crystals in an aqueous medium, said crystals having a particle size in the range of about 0.1 to about 25 μm.
2. A composition according to claim 1 wherein the aqueous phase is an essentially saturated solution of lactose.
3. A composition according to claim 1 or 2 which further comprises a hydrocolloid.
4. A composition according to claim 3 wherein the hydrocol loid is selected from the group consisting of a protein, native starch, modified starch, a cellulose derivative, a vegetable gum, a microbial gum, carrageenan and pectin.
5. A composition according to claim 6 wherein the hydrocol¬ loid is a milkderived protein.
6. A composition according to claim 1 wherein the lactose crystals are derived from whey, the composition comprising further whey substances.
7. A composition according to claim 6 wherein the whey from which the lactose crystals are derived, is demineralised whey.
8. A composition according to any of claims 17 which has a content of lactose crystals in the range of 5 to 70 wt% including the range of 20 to 60 wt%.
9. A composition according to claim 5 wherein the weight ratio between the lactose crystals and the protein is in the ratio of 1:9 to 9:1.
10. A composition according to claim 9 wherein the ratio is in the range of 1:4 to 4:1.
11. A composition according to claim 1 wherein the lactose crystals are provided with a substantially water impermeable coating layer.
12. A composition according to any of claims 111 which is at least partially dehydrated.
13. A method of manufacturing a food product mixture com¬ prising providing in said mixture a composition according to any of claims 112.
14. A method according to claim 13 wherein the composition is added as a substitute for a sugar which is soluble in the food product.
15. A method according to claim 13 wherein the composition is provided in the mixture by subjecting a food product mixture containing dissolved lactose to a treatment whereby lactose microcrystals having a particle size in the range of about 0.1 to about 25 μm are formed in said mixture.
16. A method according to claim any of claims 1315 wherein the food product mixture is an ice cream mixture.
17. A method according to claim 13 wherein the composition is the composition of claim 2.
18. A method of manufacturing a food product mixture, com¬ prising incorporating into said mixture a dry composition comprising lactose crystals having a particle size in the range of about 0.1 to about 25 μm, under conditions where the bulk of the lactose crystals is not dissolved.
19. A method according to claim 18 wherein the dry composi¬ tion contains further milkderived components.
20. A method according to claim 18 wherein the food product mixture is selected from ice cream mix, butter, margarine and a chocolate and/or nutcontaining spreadable food product.
21. A food product comprising a composition according to any of claims 112 or obtainable by a method according to any of claims 1320. AMENDED CLAIMS [received by the International Bureau on 18 September 1996 (18.09.96); original claims 121 replaced by amended claims 119 (3 pages)] 1 An edible composition comprising 190% by weight of lac¬ tose crystals having a particle size in the range of about 0.1 to about 25 μm, and, if desired, one or more components selected from a whey substance and a hydrocolloid selected from the group consisting of a vegetable protein, gelatin, a modified protein, native starch, modified starch, a cellulose derivative, a vegetable gum, a microbial gum, carrageenan and pectin, the balance being water or an essentially saturated solution of lactose.
22. A composition according to claim 1 wherein the balance is an essentially saturated solution of lactose.
23. A composition according to claim 1 which comprises a whey protein.
24. A composition according to claim 1 wherein the lactose crystals are derived from whey, the composition comprising further whey substances.
25. A composition according to claim 4 wherein the whey from which the lactose crystals are derived, is demineralised whey.
26. A composition according to any of claims 15 which has a content of lactose crystals in the range of 5 to 70 wt% including the range of 20 to 60 wt%.
27. A composition according to claim 3 wherein the weight ratio between the lactose crystals and the whey protein is in the ratio of 1:9 to 9:1.
28. A composition according to claim 7 wherein the ratio is in the range of 1:4 to 4:1.
29. A composition according to claim 1 wherein the lactose crystals are provided with a substantially water impermeable coating layer.
30. A composition according to any of claims 39 which is at least partially dehydrated.
31. A method of manufacturing a food product mixture com¬ prising incorporating into said mixture a composition according to any of claims 110.
32. A method according to claim 11 wherein the composition is added as a substitute for a sugar which is soluble in the food product, as a substitute for fat or as a substitute for a milk component.
33. A method of manufacturing a food product, said method comprising subjecting a food product mixture containing dissolved lactose to a treatment whereby lactose microcrystals having a particle size in the range of about 0.1 to about 25 μm are formed in said mixture, with the limitation that seeding crystals of lactose are not added to the mixture.
34. A method according to any of claims 1113 wherein the food product mixture is an ice cream mixture.
35. A method according to claim 11 wherein the composition is the composition of claim 2.
36. A method of manufacturing a food product mixture, com prising incorporating into said mixture a composition according to claim 10, under conditions where the bulk of the lactose crystals is not dissolved.
37. A method according to claim 16 wherein the dry composi¬ tion contains further milkderived components.
38. A method according to claim 16 wherein the food product mixture is selected from ice cream mix, butter, margarine and a chocolate and/or nutcontaining spreadable food product.
39. A food product comprising a composition according to any of claims 110 or obtainable by a method according to any of claims 1118.
Description:
EDIBLE LACTOSE-CONTAINING COMPOSITIONS AND THEIR USE IN THE MANUFACTURE OF FOOD PRODUCTS

FIELD OF INVENTION

The invention relates to novel edible compositions containing microcrystals of lactose which are useful as bulking agents, consistency improving agents or as fat and/or sugar replac¬ ement agents in a variety of food products. In particular, the compositions confer to such food products rheological and sensory characteristics which are normally associated with lipid components and/or milk-derived components conventional¬ ly used in the manufacturing of food products.

TECHNICAL BACKGROUND AND PRIOR ART

Lactose, or milk sugar, is the principle carbohydrate in the milk of mammals and the content hereof varies among species from 2-4 wt% for cow's milk to 7-8 wt% for human milk. Lac¬ tose is a disaccharide of galactose and glucose linked by a i8-D-l,4 linkage. The most commonly recovered form for use in foods is the α-monohydrate which is less soluble and crystal¬ lizes more readily than other forms of lactose. The major source of commercial lactose is whey, a by-product of cheese production. Whey contains about 6 wt% solids of which about 4.7 wt% is lactose, the bulk of the remainder components being protein, peptides and minerals.

Isolation of lactose from whey can be carried out by heating, evaporation, filtration and, finally, crystallization or by processes including reverse osmosis and ultrafiltration. A method for the production of crystallized lactose from lacto¬ serum is disclosed in EP 0 052 541.

Lactose is currently used in many food applications. Thus, lactose is incorporated into baked products to increase the browning. Such an application is disclosed in GB 1,587,296. Lactose can also be added to foods such as toppings, icings

and confectionary without contributing excessive sweetness when sucrose is replaced by the less sweetening lactose.

The ease of crystallization by lactose and its ability to form a hard solid makes lactose coatings a good choice for e.g. pharmaceuticals, food dyes, and flavour capsules. Lac¬ tose is also used in dietetic foods, imitation dairy products and coffee whiteners. The latter application is disclosed in GB 1,282,502.

However, the properties of slow solubility and ease of crys- tallization of lactose can be a disadvantage in food applic¬ ations, ot-Forms of lactose have very low solubilities and cannot be used in partially prepared food products that are rehydrated without heating, such as instant puddings. Large crystals, i.e. crystals typically having an average particle size in excess of about 20 μm may be formed in the manufac¬ ture of ice cream when the mix is cooled to a low tempera¬ ture. The result is a "sandy" texture, or crystals which are large enough to be felt by the tongue and palate. This pro¬ blem can be at least partially overcome by inhibiting crystal formation with the addition of stabilizing agents such as gums, or by seeding with lactose crystal nuclei to keep the crystal size smaller.

The concentration of lactose in sweet condensed milk is critical in protecting the texture of the milk product. Condensed milk typically has about 60 wt% of the water removed and sucrose added to produce a product of a total carbohydrate concentration of about 55 wt%. Too much lactose results in a product that is grainy and too little lactose produces a product that is slimy in texture.

It is known, e.g. from manufacturing of sweet condensed milk or ice cream that the addition of about 0.5 wt% seeding crystals of lactose with a particle size less than about 10 μm can prevent the formation of large lactose particles resulting in sandy texture in such products.

Commercial products in powder form containing "microfine" lactose crystals, e.g. having at least 90% particles less than 32 μm, are commercially available (e.g.MEGGLETOSE RAB™ 400) . Such products are recommended for use in the manufac- turing of fondants.

The present invention is based on the surprising finding that compositions comprising small crystals (or microcrystals/mic- roparticles) of lactose suspended in an aqueous medium have rheological and sensory characteristics which render such compositions highly useful in the manufacture of a variety of food products.

Thus, the compositions according to the invention can be used as fat or sugar replacement ingredients or as components in fat or sugar replacement compositions, as replacements for other milk solids in food manufacturing or as bulking agents. Thus, it has been found that the compositions can be used as ingredients of ice cream and condensed milk products without giving rise to the above textural or sensory defects. Addi¬ tionally, it has been found that the compositions may improve or enhance the consistency, flavour or colour of food pro¬ ducts.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Accordingly, the invention relates in one aspect to an edible composition comprising 1-90 wt% of lactose crystals in an aqueous medium, said crystals having a particle size in the range of about 0.1 to about 25 μm.

In another aspect of the invention there is provided a method of manufacturing a food product mixture comprising providing in said mixture a composition as defined herein.

In further aspects, the invention pertain to a method of manufacturing a food product mixture, comprising incorporat¬ ing into said mixture a dry composition comprising lactose

crystals having a particle size in the range of about 0.1 to about 25 μm, under conditions where the lactose crystals are not dissolved, and to a food product comprising the above composition or prepared in accordance with the above manufac- turing method.

DETAILED DISCLOSURE OF THE INVENTION

It has unexpectedly been found that fine lactose crystals or microparticles having a particle size, i.e. a largest par¬ ticle diameter, which is in the range of about 0.1 to about 25 μm, in particular in the range of about 0.1 to about 20 μm including the range of about 0.1 to about 15 μm, such as in the range of about 0.5 to about 10 μm will provide a fat-like mouthfeel similar to that provided by milk fat or other types of lipids when incorporated into foods in dry form or, pre- ferably, in the form of aqueous suspensions comprising in the range of about 5 to about 70 wt% of the lactose micropartic¬ les.

Thus, it has been found that crystallized lactose micropar¬ ticles, when suspended in an aqueous medium in the above amounts, in particular particles having a size in the range from about 0.5 and up to about 10 μm, can effectively mimic fat particles. However, even microparticles with average sizes up to about 20 μm which is the particle detection limit of the tongue, will result in an acceptable fat-like mouth- feel, although microparticles of an average particle size exceeding about 15 μm in some food products may result in a composition providing a mouthfeel that is slightly "dull" or mealy.

These unexpected advantageous functional properties of lac- tose microparticles having sizes in the range of about 0.1 to about 25 μm implies that such particles can be mixed into solid or fluid lipids or food products containing such lipids

and thereby at least partially replace the lipid substan¬ tially without the mouthfeel and consistency being changed.

Furthermore, such lactose microparticles suspended in an aqueous phase or as such have, or confer to food products to which they are added, highly desirable functional properties which have not previously been described as a possible fea¬ ture of lactose. Thus, the suspension according to this invention exhibits functional and sensory features which have not been described before in connection with the use of lactose in food products. In contrast to a suspension of lactose crystals of conventionally used, larger particle sizes, the suspension according to the invention, in particu¬ lar when the lactose microparticle content of the suspension is in the range of about 20 to about 60 wt%, has a consi- stency and provides a rich mouthfeel which are essentially similar to those experienced with conventional fat-in-water or water-in-fat emulsion food types such as salad dressings, mayonnaise, or spreads. Additionally, surface characteristics and pouring properties of such suspensions resemble those observed for conventional pourable emulsion-type food prod¬ ucts.

It has also been found that the suspensions according to the invention will not give rise to any "sandy" mouthfeel or will not loose the fat-like mouthfeel and functionality when the lactose microparticles in accordance with the present inven¬ tion are suspended in an aqueous medium which is saturated with lactose and the temperature is controlled so as to maintain a saturated lactose solution. Accordingly, in one useful embodiment of the invention, the aqueous phase of the composition according to the invention is a saturated sol¬ ution of lactose.

Further advantageous properties of the compositions according to the invent'ioh are that they can provide rheologically stable suspensions, optionally in combination with consist-

ency improving agents including stabilizing or thickening agents. Additionally, it has been found that lactose micro¬ particles can form part of consistency neutral ingredients in foods whereby the lactose microcrystals either alone or combined with consistency regulating agents such as milk proteins provide or contribute to a rich and smooth mouth¬ feel. This property extends far beyond the limits for the solubility of lactose in the aqueous phase of the food. Finally, it was an expected finding that the flavour inten- sity of a food product can be improved by the compositions, the extent hereof depending on the size and size distribution of the lactose microparticles.

In accordance with the invention, the lactose microparticles can be prepared using any suitable method on the basis of lactose-containing products such as refined or unrefined lactose, whey, whey fractions, demineralized whey, whey permeates, demineralized whey permeates and products similar to or derived from Norwegian "whey cheese".

Lactose microparticles can also be provided in a food product containing native lactose by subjecting the food product to a treatment which results in crystallisation of the lactose therein so as to convert a substantial proportion or, prefe¬ rably, the bulk of the lactose into microcrystals of the size defined herein.

Furthermore, suitable lactose microcrystals can be prepared in isolated, substantially pure form from commercial lactose products by grinding and, if required, sieving or by re- dissolving the lactose followed by re-crystallization.

Commercial lactose is produced from whey which in addition to lactose as the major component contains whey protein, low molecular nitrogen compounds and milk minerals. Evidently, it will be cheaper to prepare the compositions according to the invention directly from whey, demineralized whey or whey permeate, instead of using native lactose in isolated form as

the starting material, provided the desired sensory and textural characteristics described above for substantially pure lactose microparticles are retained.

However, it was found that a suspension according to the invention which in addition to lactose comprises whey pro¬ teins or other whey components has all of the above charac¬ teristics and additionally, that such a suspension has se¬ veral improved characteristics, e.g. in that the size of the lactose microcrystals becomes less critical for obtaining a composition exhibiting a sensory or texturally desirable fat replacement effect or being a suitable milk solid substitu¬ ting "bulking agent". Thus, it was demonstrated that when a composition comprising a combination of lactose microcrystals and whey protein is used as a fat replacement, the above preferred lactose particle size range of 0.5 to 10 μm can be extended up to an upper limit of 20 to 25 μm without giving rise to a mealy or "coarse" mouthfeel. The creaminess, mouth¬ feel and melting on the tongue which are associated with an edible emulsion type product are further improved when the lactose microcrystals are added in a form where they are in combination with a hydrocolloid such as whey protein as compared to addition of the lactose microcrystals alone. Evidently, this is highly advantageous, since such a composi¬ tion can be produced at less cost than a pure lactose micro- crystal composition. It is assumed that this synergistic effect of lactose microcrystals and whey protein will also be seen with other proteins or other types of hydrocolloids.

It will be understood that the particle sizes of the lactose microcrystals and the distribution hereof as well as the type and concentration of the incorporated protein will control the functional characteristics of the finished composition. Thus, it was demonstrated that a mixture of lactose micro¬ crystals and a protein gel based on whey or milk proteins can provide a cream-like or a paste-like (depending on the dry matter content) composition according to the invention, which have features substantially resembling those of a convention-

al, edible emulsion-type food product. The typical "sticky" mouthfeel of a pure protein gel can be changed into a shorter, smooth and rich mouthfeel when combining a whey protein gel with lactose microcrystals e.g. in a ratio cor- responding to the composition of normal sweet cheese whey.

The ratio between the amount of protein and the amount of lactose microcrystals can influence the consistency and mouthfeel of the food end product. In general, an increase of the amount of microcrystals in relation to the amount of protein will result in a shorter and richer mouthfeel, where¬ as a relative increase of the protein will give a more pla¬ stic food product with a longer bite. In particular, with such a whey-based composition having a high content of solids, i.e. in a paste-like form, the bite will become shorter with increasing size of the lactose microparticles.

In accordance with the invention, a useful composition com¬ prises a protein, such as a milk-derived protein, the ratio between the lactose crystals and the protein typically being in the range of 1:9 to 9:1, such as in the range of 1:4 to 4:1, including a range of 1:3 to 3:1.

In accordance with the invention, the lactose microcrystals or a mixture of lactose crystals and native milk-derived proteins may advantageously be combined with consistency regulating hydrocolloids other than native milk-derived proteins. This group includes hydrocolloids which in them¬ selves may have an effect as fat replacements by increasing the viscosity of the aqueous phase by gelling and which do not confer undesirable stickiness or mealiness. This group of suitable products include a variety of hydrocolloids which are conventionally used in the manufacture of food products as stabilizing, thickening, gelling agents and will include native animal and vegetable proteins such as e.g. gelatin or soy protein, modified proteins including proteins which have been subjected to a controlled denaturation such as e.g. the commercial whey protein product Dairy Lo™, carbohydrates such

as starch, maltodextrins, chemically or enzymatically mo¬ dified starch compounds, konjak rnannan, microcrystalline cellulose, carrageenans, alginates, vegetable or microbially derived gums such as xanthan gum, guar gum, locust bean gum, gum arabic, and pectin.

It has been found that lactose microcrystals can be mixed with the above milk-derived proteins and other hydrocolloids which per se do not provide a fa -mimicking consistency so as to provide a composition with a fat-like consistency. It is contemplated that the hydrocolloid gel acts as a matrix and a lubricating medium for the irregularly shaped lactose micro¬ crystals to provide the desired smooth and rich consistency. Compositions further comprising a hydrocolloid, in particular a milk-derived protein, is dissolved, or "melts" slowly in the mouth in a way which is similar to the behaviour of a lipid-containing food product, such as cream-type products, spreads or emulsion-type products.

The lactose microcrystals may advantageously be coated in order to prevent the crystals from being dissolved at ele- vated temperatures or as a result of an increase of the amount of water, but also with a view to improving the mouth¬ feel conferred by the compositions or the food products to which they are added. The coating, which preferably provides a substantially water impermeable coating layer, can be carried out according to any conventional coating method. In this connection, one example of a particularly suitable coating agent is lecithin. Other examples include a protein such as gelatine, a carbohydrate, lipid compounds including mono-, di- or triglycerides or derivatives hereof, stearyl lactylates, polyglycerol esters, propylene-glycol esters, lactylated monoglycerides, sucrose esters, diacylactyl esters of glycerides and mixtures of any of these agents.

In another advantageous embodiment of the invention, the composition according to the invention is provided in an at least partially dehydrated form. Such a dehydrated composi-

tion may be used as such in the manufacture of a food pro¬ duct, or it may be rehydrated prior to use. A dehydrated composition may be prepared from a composition as defined above by any conventional dehydration method such as e.g. a drying process, evaporation, reverse osmosis and/or ultrafil- tration. Alternatively, it may be provided by mixing dry components as mentioned above. In accordance with the inven¬ tion, the dehydrated composition may be provided in the form of a powder.

It is advantageous to provide a composition according to the invention which is stable in the sense that the lactose particles substantially do not sediment. It has been found that this can e.g. be achieved by using as the suspending medium a saturated lactose solution. Even without any further viscosity enhancing substances other than whey protein derived from the whey starting material, such a suspension will be stable, if the size of the microcrystals do not exceed about 2 μm. However, stable suspension can readily be obtained at larger crystal sizes by adding thickening or stabilizing agents and/or by increasing the concentration of lactose microcrystals. As one example, a stable suspension with lactose microcrystals having sizes in the range of 0.5 to 20 μm is provided at a "sweet" whey solids content of about 30 wt% when suspended in a saturated lactose solution.

A highly advantageous effect of the compositions according to the invention is their ability to confer a milky/opaque appearance to a liquid food product, e.g. a milk-derived product having a reduced content of milk protein and/or milk fat. Accordingly, the composition according to the invention may be used in such products to confer a milky appearance resembling that of a milk product having a natural composi¬ tion.

In one particularly useful application, the compositions according to the invention are used as ingredients in high fat products including butter, margarine, shortening or fat

based spread or cream products such as peanut butter prod¬ ucts, nut creams or chocolate creams. Such products have a high fat content, typically in the range of 30-80 wt%. By incorporating a composition according to this invention into such products a substantial reduction in fat content can be achieved without deteriorating the desired sensory characte¬ ristics of such products. It has been found that up to 50 wt% of such products, or even higher proportions, can be replaced by a composition according to the invention, the composition used preferably having a viscosity which is substantially the same as that of the high fat product. In this connection, it is significant that the lactose microcrystals of the composi¬ tion is produced under controlled conditions so as to avoid the formation of lactose "fines", i.e. submicron crystal fragments. Furthermore, it may be advantageous for this application that the lactose microcrystal-containing composi¬ tion has been subjected to a Maillard reaction prior to being added. It has also been found that the composition according to the invention has a taste and flavour enhancing effect which e.g. is demonstrated when it is added to cocoa-contain¬ ing products in that the cocoa flavour intensity is not reduced even when e.g. 30 wt% of the product is replaced by the composition.

Further examples of food products where the compositions according to this invention can be used successfully are condensed milk products including the product known as "Dulce de Leche". A substantial proportion e.g. up to 50 wt% of the solids of such products can be substituted by a composition according to the invention without unacceptable changes in taste, texture or physical stability. In fact, the composi¬ tions according to the invention may not only substitute milk solids in such applications, but they can also substitute dissolved sugar components such as glucose or sucrose without loss of rheological properties associated with such dissolved sugars or syrups. In particular, compositions which are made from whey which are at least partially demineralized are useful for such applications.

Non-refined, "crude" lactose and other whey components have an inherent taste and flavour including a salty or bitter taste derived from the mineral content of the whey. For certain applications of the compositions according to the invention, such a taste and flavour may be desirable, e.g. when they are used in dairy products such as cheeses. Howev¬ er, for other purposes such as their use in ice cream, confectionary products, chocolate products and the above high fat products, the whey taste and flavour is not desirable, but the compositions should for such applications preferably have a neutral and mild taste. It has surprisingly been found that the taste/flavour intensity and the sequence of taste can be controlled by adjusting the particle size of the lactose microcrystals. This is described in details in the below examples. Accordingly, it is an advantageous aspect of the present invention that it is, by adjusting the particle size, possible to provide compositions according to the invention which are specifically adapted to particular food applications.

In an interesting aspect, the compositions of the present invention are used as an ingredient in the manufacture of ice cream. In the conventional manufacture of ice cream, whey powder is frequently used as an ingredient to replace more costly milk components, but the amounts hereof which can be used is restricted due to the risk of consistency and taste defects. One serious drawback of using whey powder or conven¬ tional lactose products is the risk of development of a sandy consistency due to development of large lactose crystals from the initially dissolved lactose content of the whey compo- nent. Other problems are instability of the mix towards tem¬ perature fluctuations and the undesired taste of whey. It is generally recommended that at the most 15-20 wt% of skimmed milk powder in ice cream mixes is substituted with whey powder. In the conventional ice cream manufacture whey powder or whey concentrate is added to the mix so that the lactose content is dissolved in the ice cream mix before freezing. If

seeding lactose crystals are used, it must be added to the ice cream mix.

However, the provision of the compositions according to this invention has now made it possible to incorporate a larger amount of whey component in ice cream mixes without the above problems. One important aspect of this is to add the composi¬ tion to the mix under conditions where the lactose crystals are substantially not dissolved before the freezing step. In practice this is done by adding the lactose microcrystal suspension immediately before freezing and/or by keeping the ice cream mix at a temperature where the natural lactose content of the milk component does not crystallize and where the added microcrystals will not dissolve. The purposes of adding the lactose microcrystal suspension is to obtain fat replacement, a consistency controlling effect, a cost reduc¬ tion by using a milk solid ingredient which is cheaper than the conventionally used skimmed milk and/or substitution of any other conventionally used ice cream ingredient including the added sugar which occur in at least partially dissolved form in the ice cream mix.

By incorporating whey dry matter into an ice cream mix in the form of a microcrystal suspension according to the invention, the whey taste and saltiness will be less pronounced compared to the conventional use of whey powder and it will thus be possible to use an increased amount of whey without adverse sensory effects. Furthermore, the selection of freezing conditions for the ice cream mixture becomes less critical when using a composition according to the invention as the whey component in place of whey powder, which as mentioned above may lead to sandiness due to growth of lactose crystals during freezing, the extent hereof i.a. depending on the freezing conditions. It has been found that such a crystal growth will not occur when using the microcrystal suspension, at least not to an extent where it can be sensorically detected. Accordingly, an ice cream mix containing as the whey component, a composition according to invention can be

frozen at lower freezing rates or less intensive freezing conditions than conventional mixes can. This will evidently reduce production costs significantly. Thus, it is possible to use a freezing compartment in place of a freezing tunnel. Furthermore, an ice cream prepared according to the present invention will be less prone to deterioration of taste and consistency due to temperature fluctuations during transpor¬ tation and storage.

In the manufacture of ice cream, one particularly useful composition according to the invention is one containing lactose microcrystals having a particle size in the range of 0.5-10 μm and preferably with a homogeneous size distribution in that range and without too many fines.

Lactose microcrystal-containing compositions are, as men- tioned above, also useful in the confectionaries industry or in the chocolate industry. If e.g. a whey-based suspension of lactose microcrystals are used in the manufacture of milk toffees in place of conventionally used whey powder, the undesirable whey flavour hereof can be reduced or avoided, and it is possible to incorporate a larger proportion of cheaper whey components in the form of the compositions according to the invention. It is possible to manufacture chewing gum based on the present lactose microcrystal compo¬ sitions.

The above advantageous effects obtained with the compositions according to the invention with respect to flavour, consi¬ stency stability and sensory characteristics can also be achieved if lactose microparticles having sizes within the above ranges either alone or in combination with natural whey ingredients are incorporated in a food product, in particular a lipid-containing product, in the form of microcrystalline lactose powder, whey powder, demineralized whey powder or whey permeate manufactured under conditions where the lactose is in form of microcrystals as defined herein. Accordingly, the invention also relates to such use. In this connection,

interesting food products include emulsion-type products, confectionaries, nut pastes, chocolate pastes, chocolate products in general of a creamy, pasty or firm texture. In this connection, it is preferred that the size of the lactose crystals do not exceed about 20 μm, as the presence of just a few crystals of larger size can be detected sensorically.

Particularly in connection with manufacture of confectionaries or chocolate products the lactose microcry¬ stals should preferably not contain submicron fines, since this will decrease the viscosity to an undesired degree. The occurrence of such fines is avoided to a large extent when the lactose microcrystals are provided by controlled crystal¬ lization of the lactose as it is illustrated in Example 6, products A-D. Furthermore, it is important that all lactose particles without exception are kept below the sensorically detectable limit, i.e. are kept within the defined maximum particle sizes according to the present invention.

Some of the above statements and observations can be illus¬ trated by the following comparison of features of different compositions each containing lactose microcrystals of dif¬ ferent sizes. There is a continuum of applicability as func¬ tion of the average particle size, progressively increasing from composition (A) to composition (E) as listed in Example 6. In contrast to composition (E) which is the known whey- based lactose standard product, application of the composi¬ tions according to the invention are based on their effect in controlling consistency and sensory properties of foods when incorporated in the food under conditions where the lactose does not dissolve whereas the effect of adding the standard lactose powder is obtained on dissolution. It will be under¬ stood that the compositions (A) to (D) are illustrating examples and that compositions having average particle sizes in between any of these compositions can be envisaged which presumably have ' characteristics which are also in between.

In addition to those applications of the compositions accord¬ ing to the invention and of the lactose microcrystals as such which are mentioned specifically above, it is envisaged that they will be generally useful in the manufacture of foods where it is advantageous to reduce the fat content or food where it is advantageous to substitute a relatively expensive conventional component with the cheaper whey-derived composi¬ tions of this invention. Thus, the lactose microcrystals according to the invention may advantageously be used in the manufacture of at least the following food products: milk- based products such as fresh cheese, "quark", cheese, pro¬ cessed cheese, sour cream, dairy cream products, yoghurt, ice cream, ice cream dessert, "mousse", butter, margarine pro¬ ducts, salad dressings, sauces, mayonnaise, chocolate, cho- colate-, nut-, and caramel pastes, chocolate bars, nougat, chewing gum, fudge, caramel shortenings, pates, liver paste, cooked meat products, custards and custards fillings, cakes and bakery produc s.

The application of the lactose microcrystal composition according to the invention as a milk based filler or bulking agent, either as such or in combination with a suitable hydrocolloid, and/or as a consistency neutral milk-derived ingredient not associated with the disadvantageous effects of dissolved lactose, is conceivable in practically any food product including particularly milk-based foods where these features will be apprehended as an advantage.

As it is mentioned above, there is also provided a method of manufacturing a food product mixture wherein a dry composi- tion comprising lactose crystals having an average particle size in the range of about 0.1 to about 25 μm is added under conditions where the bulk of lactose crystals is not dis¬ solved. Such conditions are provided e.g. when the mixture prior to addition of the dry composition is saturated with lactose and/or kept at a temperature where no or only limited further dissolution of lactose can occur. Such a dry composi¬ tion may comprise further components corresponding to those

mentioned above for a composition containing an aqueous phase, including further milk-derived components. Such a method is particularly suitable for the manufacture of ice cream, butter type products, margarine or chocolate- and/or nut-containing spreadable products, but also fresh cheese, processed cheese, mousse products and dairy cream products.

The invention is further illustrated in the following examples and the drawings in which

Fig. 1 is a microscopic photographic view of the composition designated B in Example 6 (bar = 100 μm) , and

Fig. 2 is microscopic views (x 320) of compositions desig¬ nated A, B, C, D and E, respectively in Example 6.

EXAMPLE 1

Preparation of sweetened condensed milk with increased con- tent of whey solids

65 g of dried sweet whey containing lactose microcrystals having a particle size in the range of 0.5 to 20 μm were mixed thoroughly with 35 g of water saturated with lactose at 5°C to obtain a homogeneous suspension (suspension Bl) .

1. 30 g of the above suspension was mixed with 70 g of sweetened condensed milk containing 26 wt% milk solids, 45 wt% sucrose and 27 g water.

2. 50 g of suspension B was mixed with 50 of the sweetened condensed milk.

Thus, 30 and 50 wt%, respectively of the solids of the sweetened condensed milk were replaced by the composition comprising lactose microcrystals.

At 30% substitution, the milk taste was improved, the texture was similar, however slightly less sticky and the lactose crystal size did not change noticeable after recurrent shifts from refrigerator to room temperature. The saltiness was increased, however not to a unpleasant extent.

At a substitution rate of 50%, whey taste and saltiness were increased to an unpleasant extent, while texture and mouthfe¬ el remained similar to the original condensed milk. Both whey taste and saltiness can be reduced or eliminated by demineralizing the whey starting material, which can be done without changing the physical properties of suspension Bl.

EXAMPLE 2

Preparation of Dulce de Leche with increased content of whey solids

65 g of dried sweet whey subjected to Maillard reaction and colour formation and containing lactose microcrystals having a particle size in the range of 0.5 to 20 μm were mixed thoroughly with 35 g of water saturated with lactose at 5°C to obtain a homogeneous suspension (suspension B2) .

1. 30 g of the above suspension was mixed with 70 g of Dulce de Leche containing 24 wt% milk solids, 50 wt% sucrose and 25 g water.

2. 50 g of suspension B2 was mixed with 50 of the Dulce de Leche.

The same findings regarding the properties of the substituted products as in Example 1 were made.

EXAMPLE 3

Preparation of spreadable chocolate cream with fat substitute

A suspension corresponding to Bl was used to replace 30 and 50% respectively of the solids of a "Nutella"-like nut/choco- late paste.

The texture, mouthfeel and melting on the tongue were essen¬ tially unchanged after substitution with the suspension, irrespective of the level of substitution. However, the "bite" was slightly shorter. The intensity of the nut and cocoa taste was essentially unchanged at the 30% substitution level, due to a taste intensifying effect of the lactose microcrystals. At 50% substitution the intensity of the taste of nuts and cocoa was reduced noticeably. Demineralization of the whey raw material should be carried out to reduce salti- ness at the 50% substitution level.

EXAMPLE 4

A fat reduced lipid-containing butter-like product containing 80 wt% dry matter and having a milk fat content of 35 wt% was prepared by adding a lactose microcrystal composition to butter to provide fat reduced product with a content of 35 wt% lactose microcrystals (particle size 0.5 to 20 μm) and 7 wt% whey protein.

The texture of the resulting product was like "hard butter", the product melted on the tongue and a fat-like mouthfeel was observed. No "mealiness" or "sandiness" was observed.

EXAMPLE 5

Preparation of ice cream containing lactose crystal-contain¬ ing composition

A suspension containing 40 g of dried sweet whey containing lactose microcrystals having an average particle size in the range of 0.5-20 μm, and 60 g of water saturated with lactose at 1°C was prepared (suspension B5)

A suspension containing 40 g of dried sweet whey containing lactose microcrystals having an average particle size in the range of 0.5-35 μm, and 60 g of water saturated with lactose at 1°C was prepared (suspension C5)

A commercial ice cream base product, 100% overrun, containing per 100 ml: 12 g carbohydrate, 5 g of fat and 2 g of protein was used.

Two series of test products were prepared. In both of these series 5, 10 and 15 wt%, respectively of ice cream base dry matter were replaced by whey solids. In the first series suspension B5 was used as the substitute and in the second series, suspension C5 was used.

In the first series 5, 9.5 and 14 g, respectively of suspen¬ sion B5 and 95, 90.5 and 86 wt%, respectively of the ice cream base were mixed thoroughly keeping temperature as low as possible.

The second series was prepared in a similar manner but using suspension C5.

In both series, the resulting mixes were placed in a normal deep freezer at -18°C. With the exception of control samples, the mixtures were subjected to room temperature twice daily for 20 minutes, for a total of 10 days. Then the samples were kept in the freezer for a further month.

After this period, all samples contained ice crystals which were detectable by the tongue, though most pronounced in the ice cream base samples. The samples containing suspension B5 showed the lowest degree of icy texture, whilst the samples containing suspension C5 got scores in between in this respect.

Likewise, the ice cream base samples showed the highest degree of volume shrinkage, and the hardest/most flaky tex¬ ture. The samples containing suspension C5 showed properties similar to those for the ice cream base samples, but were slightly less flaky and hard in texture. The samples contain¬ ing suspension B5, however, were clearly more homogeneous, scoopable and "home made" rich in texture, even if the tex¬ ture was more "mealy" than that of the ice cream base star- ting material before subjecting this to temperature fluctu¬ ations. Furthermore, the smoothest and most homogeneous appearance was observed for the product containing 14 g of suspension B5.

The taste and mouthfeel profile of the control samples which were not subjected to recurrent exposures to room temperature confirmed this picture in a clear manner. The control samples containing suspension B5 were sensorically more rich, "home made" and "full bodied" with regard to mouthfeel and taste than were the ice cream base samples which had not been subjected to an elevated temperature cycle. The addition of suspension B5 clearly resulted in the sensation of a more substantious, milky ice cream as compared to the reference ice cream. These findings were most pronounced in the control sample containing 14 g of suspension B5, even if the salty whey taste in this sample had increased to an unpleasant level.

The control samples containing C5 were slightly sandy because of the presence of lactose crystals having a size above the detection level of the tongue. There was no clear indication of a more rich, full body mouthfeel and taste, even if the

milky character was more pronounced in the control ice cream base sample.

Under the microscope, the control ice cream base samples having been subjected to the heat exposure cycle showed clear growth of lactose crystals, up to a maximum size of 100 μm. This ice cream was clearly sandy. The samples containing suspension B5 only showed a very low increase in the size of the lactose crystal up to a maximum of 25 μm. There was some dosage dependency, i.e. a higher content of suspension B5 resulted in a lower growth of lactose crystals. In the samples containing suspension C5 clear growth of crystal size was observed, but only to a maximum of about 50 μm, which caused a gritty feeling on the tongue.

On melting, the control ice cream base samples melted rapidly into a watery liquid. The samples containing suspension B5 retained their form and texture significantly longer, posi¬ tively related to the content of suspension B5. The samples containing suspension C5 were scored in between these two observations, showing no dose/effect relationship.

Both the richness of taste, the even melting on the tongue, the full mouthfeel and the milky, full fat taste were most pronounced in the samples containing suspension B5 up to 9.5 g. The samples containing suspension C5 showed less improve¬ ment of the above characteristics, but were still better at this dosage level than the ice cream base samples. There was no detectable increase in salty or whey taste. At a dosage of 14 g of either suspension, the salty whey taste increased to an unpleasant level.

From these experiments, it is obvious that even under adverse conditions an increase in the content of whey solids in the form of lactose microcrystals and normal whey constituents has a positive effect on taste, mouthfeel, melting down characteristics, milky flavour, richness, physical stability, and lowering of the energy requirement during freezing. These

effects are mainly dependent on the physical properties of the lactose microcrystals and only marginally on the whey protein content, which acts as a stabilizing agent. An increased, undesirable salty whey flavour at high or very high dosage rates can be counteracted by demineralizing the whey ingredient, without diminishing the above-mentioned positive effects.

In fact, it can be envisaged to use adequately demineralized whey containing lactose microcrystals at an average particle size below 25 μm such as below 20 μm as a major milk ingredi¬ ent in ice cream, possibly supplemented with a hydrocolloid as mentioned above. Thus, ice cream mixes in which at least 20 wt% of the total dry matter content is such demineralized whey, such as at least 30 wt%, preferably at least 40 wt%, more preferably at least 50 wt% and in particular at least 60 wt%, is contemplated.

EXAMPLE 6

In this Example, descriptions of examples of compositions according to the invention are given (compositions A, B, C and D) . As reference is included a known pre-crystallized whey product of commercial standard quality (E) . This latter product contains lactose crystals of varying sizes, the bulk of the crystals having a size in the range of 40-100 μm. All of the compositions according to the invention and the refe- rence product were suspended in water saturated with lactose at a lactose concentration of 55 wt%.