The demand for yoghurt has skyrocketed in recent times. According to Statista, a leading provider of market and consumer data, the revenue in the yoghurt segment of the dairy food industry in Nigeria amounts to USD 2,159 million in 2021, and the market is expected to grow annually by 11.77% (CAGR 2021 – 2026).
This growth rate is not unconnected with the fact that the average consumer is increasingly becoming health conscious and careful in making choices as its knowledge of the composition and health benefits of food products gained from the internet with advice from experts like nutritionist, dieticians and other physicians increases.
Nutritionists have always regarded yoghurt as a functional food considering its impressive nutritive value, amazing health benefits and therapeutic value.
It is an established fact that a plain whole milk yoghurt is a great source of high complete protein (10g/100g), higher than milk(3.4/100g); good source of energy and an excellent source of several vitamins and minerals (calcium(100mg/100g), phosphorus(135mg/100g), vitamin B12(0.75mcg/100g) B2(0.278mg/100g) .
But yoghurt is not the only food with this nutritive value; other foods like milk contain as much. What really distinguishes yoghurt is its therapeutic (treatment) potential; for it has been proven that it is, like very few selected foods, a good vehicle to effectively deliver probiotics in the body.
Probiotics have been defined as live micro-organism (mainly friendly bacteria) which when administered in adequate amount in foods; confer a health benefit on the host. There are many probiotic cultures available in food and health stores, each with its unique health benefits/therapeutic potential.
Two examples of probiotics are Lactobacillus Bulgaricus and Streptococcus Thermophilus, the traditional yoghurt starter cultures (working symbiotically) that are usually added to milk to initiate the fermentation (incubation) process that would convert some of the lactose (a kind of sugar naturally present in cow milk) into lactic acid, an organic acid which gives yoghurt its characteristic tangy (sour) taste.
The conversion (breakdown) of lactose offers a unique health benefit to individuals with Lactose Intolerance, a conditon characterized by symptoms such as bloating, gas, abnormal discomfort and diarrhea.
This is because these individuals lack lactase, an enzyme naturally found in the gastro-intestinal tractdiseases of humans. The function of lactase is to breakdown lactose present in ingested milk to enable its digestion thus ameliorating Lactose Intolerance to a reasonable extent, as not all the lactose in the milk is broken down during the production of yoghurt.
And for this reason, yoghurt made with just the traditional yoghurt starter culture could still be a “do not eat” food, like milk, to some Lactose Intolerant consumers. In so far as these yoghurt starter cultures can cause the breakdown of lactose in milk to facilitate its digestion, they are considered as probiotics.
Unfortunately, the yoghurt starter cultures’ status as probiotics is limited to its health benefit of improving digestion of lactose in Lactose Intolerant individuals. Studies have shown that they cannot survive the passage through the acidic condition of the gastro-intestinal tract, and for this reason, they cannot effect other therapeutic potentials in the body.
Hopefully, with some necessary control in the production process, there are other probiotics that can survive the acidic condition of the gastro-intestinal tract. Two examples of these probiotics are Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium spp. The incorporation of these probiotics into the traditional yoghurt starter cultures produces a yoghurt of excellent therapeutic value. But to stimulate the growth of these probiotics they must be accompanied by non-digestable food ingredients called Prebiotics.
According to an extract from the journal, IMMUNOLOGY & CELL BIOLOGY(2000), the major proven health benefits and therapeutic value of these probiotics (Lactobacillus Acidophilus and Bifidobacterium spp) are:
- Enhancement of immunity against intestinal infections.
- Immune enhancement.
- Prevention of diarrhoeal diseases.
- Prevention of Hypercholesterolaemia (High blood cholesterol).
- Prevention of Colon cancer.
- Improvement of Lactose Utilization.
- Prevention of upper gastro-intestinal diseases.
- Stabilization of the gut mucosal barrier.
- Relieving symptoms of Food Allergies in infants.
- Replenish the gut flora (friendly bacteria) in the gut destroyed by the use of synthetic antibiotic medications.
However, it has been established that in order to achieve these therapeutic health benefits, regular consumption of yoghurt (100-500g/week) containing at least 1.0×10-6cfu/g of Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium spp., excluding the traditional yoghurt starter culture, is essential.
Importantly, it might interest you to know that, in a bid to curtail the proliferation of pathogenic (disease-causing) and the spoilage micro-organisms in the milk thus safeguarding the health of the consumer and extending the shelf life of the product respectively, most yoghurt brands in the market underwent pasteurization (heat-treatment at high temperature) after incubation (fermentation) during production.
By so doing, however this necessary heat treatment operation, both the desirable live and active yoghurt starter cultures and probiotics cultures were co-incidentally destroyed alongside the undesirable pathogenic and spoilage micro-organisms the consequence of which is to deny the yoghurt of its peculiar health benefits and therapeutic value.
Hence the expedient need for the producer to systematically incorporate the probiotics after incubation without pasteurization.
Nevertheless, the nutritive value (protein, energy, fat, calcium, phosphorus, B Vitamins, etc) remains unaffected by the heat treatment and can be relied upon by taste-oriented consumers who care less of the product’s health benefits/therapeutic value.
In summary, to get the most out of this versatile food called yoghurt, the manufacturer must ensure that the probiotic cultures must not only remain live and active, but must also be adequate in number (at least 1 million viable cells/g of yoghurt), excluding the yoghurt starter cultures, at the end of incubation, and should remain stable throughout the anticipated shelf life (expiry date).
For the health conscious consumer, the key points to remember when making choice on the numerous yoghurt brands stocked in the shelves of supermarkets etc., are:
- Look for the inscription, ‘CONTAINS LIVE AND ACTIVE CULTURES’ including the names of the probiotics in the ingredient list, on the label of the yoghurt brand.
- Purchase those brands with the highest CFUs (colony forming units), if the CFUs are not listed (which usually are not) then don’t hesitate to contact the company and ask for the information.
- For optimum benefits, choose a plain brand with no added sugar or sugar substitutes. If this is a little too tart (sour) for you, then you can sweeten with your own honey which usually has less sugar.
- Purchase organic and whole milk (full cream milk) brands when possible.
The above considerations are very helpful, for very few brands of yoghurts in the market can be relied upon for the product’s inherent benefits.
Hence the stringent regulations by the Food Regulatory Agency (NAFDAC) and Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON) regarding health claims by the producers of milk and milk products such as yoghurt.
Therefore, as a commercial yoghurt producer desiring for an improvement in your production and product line; an intending commercial producer and the sensitive health conscious consumer who is as wary and skeptical of the ingredients (contents) in the yoghurts brands obtainable in the market as you are displeased with their sensory attributes, and desiring the knowledge to make a homemade yoghurt within the confines of your kitchen, you can always reach the writer via the contacts below.
We provide you with the most current comprehensive practical/theoretical techniques and skills involved in producing all kinds of yoghurt considering the conservation of their health benefits/therapeutic value as well as their sensory attributes (creaminess, thickness and tanginess(sourness) as desired by the producer/consumer.
We teach and guide you through with an intensive and comprehensive step by step approach in the production of all categories of Plain (natural) and Regular yoghurts (including probiotic) – sweetened/unsweetened, flavoured/ unflavoured, full cream/partially-skimmed/low-fat/non-fat milk drinking yoghurts, stirred yoghurts, set yoghurts and concentrated (or strained) yoghurt popularly known as Greek yoghurt.
Our services include:
- Plant set-up
- Recipe formulation
- Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs)
- Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs)
- Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) Applications.
- Sanitation/Hygienic Practices
- Determination of Product’s shelf life (Expiry Date)
- Sourcing/Procurement of all raw materials and equipments/machinery (exotic and locally fabricated).
- NAFDAC Certification Processing etc.
- Innovative Packaging
- Follow-up consultations
N/B: Our charges are considerate.
Thank you for your time.
Article by: Andrew Onunaku