​Intelligent design

Spreadable cheese comes in numerous varieties. Some recipes contain herbs or are textured, others are smooth. Some are full-fat, others low-fat. Certain types are chilled, others are ambient. Meeting these myriad consumer tastes with high productivity demands highly flexible production lines that can be easily configured to produce diverse types of spreadable cheese.

Wooden spoons filled with soft cheese.

The spreadable cheese universe plays host to an ever-expanding range of varieties. Cream cheese, for example, may be fermented from fresh milk or directly acidified from recombined powders, fresh milk and dairy cream. Each spread has its unique taste and mouthfeel thanks to the production techniques and combination of ingredients used.

Manufacturers who produce – or may one day wish to produce – more than one recipe should think carefully about production flexibility before investing, advises Dan Björklund, Manager Center of Expertise Food at Tetra Pak.

“Because spreadable cheese today comes in so many different varieties, you as a producer will want to choose a line concept that offers full flexibility and can be configured to make different types of spreadable cheese for your end-customers.”

Flexibility is Tetra Pak’s leitmotif in spreadable cheese production. Lines are custom-designed to be scalable in supporting small batches as well as continuous production and to handle multiple recipes with large variations – from low-fat to full-fat and particles to smooth.

Tetra Pak lines can also be readily adapted to produce aseptic varieties that can be distributed in ambient packaging.

“All our spreadable cheese solutions are adapted to the specific needs of the customer. We call it intelligent customization,” Björklund explains.

“This means engineering the line solution to produce specific types of product and their desired properties. We want to enable customers to switch between varieties with minimal fuss.”

To achieve this, Tetra Pak is selective about its line technologies. Classic cream cheese, made from fresh milk, is a prime example. Here, Tetra Pak recommends ultrafiltration.

Why? Ultrafiltration is highly versatile, Björklund says. “Two cream cheese products in the same line may differ in fat content or target capacity. Both these products can be handled by one single ultrafiltration unit. This flexibility is a huge asset.”

Ultrafiltration has the added advantage of being a very gentle concentration method due to the fact that it functions at lower temperatures. So not only does it make your production more versatile, it also enhances your cream cheese quality.

The lines are based on direct product acidification and hot filling for chilled distribution. But they can easily be adapted, for instance, to replace direct acidification with fermentation by adding a Tetra Pak® Pasteurizer PF and fermentation tanks.

If you produce chilled cream cheese, you can expand your line into ambient production by adjusting the temperature program of the Tetra Pak® Indirect UHT unit and adding an aseptic buffer tank and a filling machine for Tetra Pak packages.

“Our goal is to enable customers to produce multiple recipes with large variations – whether full-fat or low-fat, with particles or without, in small batches or continuous production, and chilled production or ambient,” Björklund says.

This flexibility is mirrored in mixing – a cornerstone technology in spreadable cheese production. Here, the Tetra Pak® High Shear Mixer offers a degree of flexibility that is unique in the market.
By combining knifes with a dynamic rotor stator, the mixer can both cut cheese blocks (the core ingredient of classic spreadable processed cheese) and mix powders effectively.

A variable shear effect allows ultimate precision in emulsification and powder mixing. Common ingredients in a spreadable processed cheese recipe range from milk powder to vegetable or butter oil and various stabilisers and emulsifiers. Full versatility in handling these is crucial.

The Tetra Pak High Shear Mixer also provides in-mixer heating, which is valuable when pasteurizing spreadable processed cheese. This means you will not need a separate heat exchanger: the mixer does this job too.

“Heating occurs in the mixer through a heated jacket as well as by steam injection,” Björklund says. “This yields an all-in-one, plug-and-play solution that can be skid-mounted with a holding tank if desired. It really is the ultimate in flexibility.”