Sweetened condensed milk bring new challenges for manufacturers

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Sweetened condensed milk bring new challenges for manufacturers

WS Warmsener Spezialitäten, part of Uelzena Ingredients, launches new sweetened condensed milk variations for actual food trends like vegetarian, vegan, organic, Fairtrade, less sugar, kosher or halal.

In times of changing consumer habits and global markets, diversification and the rapid adaptation of new trends is an increasing challenge both for manufacturers of ingredients and for their processors. Even for such traditional products as sweetened condensed milk.  Dairies like the Uelzena Group are focusing on new recipes for sweetened condensed milk. The latest nutritional trends define new requirements for milk-based ingredients. 

Condensed milk has been produced since the middle of the 19th century. Initially as long-life canned milk, which is still very popular today as coffee creamer. This variant is usually unsweetened. To produce sweetened condensed milk, up to 45% sugar is added to the milk and dissolved. After removing the water by evaporation, a thicker condensed milk with a more distinct caramel taste is produced. The longer and higher the heating time, the more pronounced will be the taste. 

Sweetened condensed milk – an important ingredient for many confectionery products

Industrially produced sweetened condensed milk is one of the most important milk-based ingredients for the food and confectionery industry, besides milk powder and butterfat. It is mainly used in the production of high-quality caramel fillings, chocolate bars, chocolates, toffees, dessert sauces, ice cream and many other sweets. In these applications it not only provides the typical caramel taste, but also influences the desired consistency and mouthfeel of the finished product.  

The quality and the recipe of the sweetened condensed milk used as an ingredient naturally have a great influence on the properties of the finished product. The fat content, the dry matter content and the sugar quota are the main criteria for differentiating the common standard recipes. 

In Germany, condensed milk is produced in accordance with the strict requirements of the German Milk Products Regulation (MilchErzV). This regulates, among other things, which ingredients may be contained in which quotas and how the products are named. The products are divided into three classes according to their fat content:

  • Sweetened condensed milk (sweetened, condensed whole milk) with at least 8.0 % fat
  • Sweetened semi-skimmed condensed milk (sweetened, semi-skimmed condensed whole milk) with 1 % – 8 % fat
  • Sweetened condensed skimmed milk (sweetened condensed skimmed milk) with not more than 1.0 % fat

However, it is not only the fat content and dry matter that determine the properties of the ingredient sweetened condensed milk, but also the technology and process control of the manufacturing dairy company and the quality of the raw material milk which is processed. For example, they influence the crystallisation process in the condensed milk. For this reason, formally identical recipes produced from different manufacturers can have very different further processing properties. The selection of the right supplier for one’s own product and production process is therefore all the more important for manufacturers of finished goods in the food and confectionery industry.

“the request for suitable ingredients is also growing in parallel with the food and confectionery manufacturers”

The latest nutritional trends require new product solutions

But it is not only these fundamental differences in quality that are the focus of attention today in the production and processing of sweetened condensed milk. The basic trends of the last years like vegetarian and vegan products, products with organic labels, clean labels or food for certain faith groups, which e.g. correspond to the rules for Halal or Kosher, are increasingly in demand by today’s very informed consumers. Therefore, the request for suitable ingredients is also growing in parallel with the food and confectionery manufacturers. These ingredients have to meet completely new requirements. 

“It is no longer sufficient today to simply adjust the fat content and dry matter of the recipe to the customer’s individual requirements,” says Johannes Rother, Managing Director of WS Warmsener Spezialitäten GmbH, describing the rapidly changing demands of his customers. 

“On the one hand we notice a strongly increasing demand for certified variants such as organic and/or Fairtrade as well as Halal and Kosher. And on the other hand, completely new products are being created, such as sweetened condensed milk with the addition of vegetable fat, purely vegetable alternatives without milk, or the replacement of sugar by certain sugar substitutes. Accordingly, our product development is currently running at full speed.”

Johannes Rother, Managing Director of WS Warmsener Spezialitäten GmbH

The company is one of the largest producers of sweetened condensed milk in Germany and supplies many branded goods manufacturers in the international confectionery industry. 

The dairy from northern Germany is currently a pioneer in the market for organic certified sweetened condensed milk, as well as for Fairtrade-licensed condensed milk. When using vegetable fats in the new recipes, the procurement of sustainably produced raw materials is an important criterion; for example, RSPO-certified palm fat is used. As a central organisation, RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) promotes sustainable cultivation methods for palm oil in the producing countries and has defined a number of principles and criteria that must be met for sustainable palm oil production. 

New types of packaging open up markets

The second important point for the professional buyer from the food or confectionery industry, besides the recipe and quality of the sweetened condensed milk, is the choice of suitable packaging options that a manufacturer can offer. Whether large or small containers, whether for the regional market or for export to third-party countries with very long transport routes – the packaging must also be suitable for the various requirements of the most diverse processors. The packaging should protect the product as well as possible during transport in order to maintain an optimal product quality until the time of processing. It must also be suitable for the technological requirements of the production facilities. And the quantity content ideally corresponds to the quantities required per batch, if production is not continuous.   

Popular packaging systems for sweetened condensed milk are sterile steel containers, drums and loading in tankers. Increasingly in use are also various bag-in-box systems (BIB) such as one-way and reusable containers with capacities of up to 1,000 kg or smaller cartons with capacities of up to 25 kg. Especially in the market for smaller fillings for bulk consumers, new solutions are also in great demand, such as small BIBs with a capacity of 5 kg or more. These are closing the gap between the typical can for end consumers and the common bulk containers for industry. They are used both in the restaurant and catering trade and for smaller requirements by more artisanal processors from the confectionery, bakery, ice-cream parlours and small speciality manufacturers. 

“We have just invested in a versatile new filling line in order to be able to react more flexibly to the packaging requirements of our customers. It will also enable us to expand our sales market, especially in the export of smaller packaging units and of the new product variants with vegetable fat to the Asian market,” says Claudia Paland, Project Manager at WS Warmsener Spezialitäten GmbH, which belongs to the North German dairy group Uelzena eG. 

The demand for sweetened condensed milk in smaller bulk packaging is growing strongly, not only in the classic food service sector in Europe, but also in Asia, for example in Vietnam or Indonesia, where sweetened condensed milk is traditionally used to whiten and sweeten tea and where there is a high per capita consumption. Here, for example, the widespread tea rooms are an interesting market for European dairies. At the same time, this market in particular is registering growing demand for cheaper recipes with the addition of vegetable fats, mostly palm oil or coconut oil, or even purely vegetable alternatives, to which the company has now responded with new recipes. By investing in new packaging options, the company is further strengthening its position as the supplier with probably the broadest range of packaging solutions for sweetened condensed milk for B2B customers.


“Industrially produced sweetened condensed milk is one of the most important milk-based ingredients for the food and confectionery industry”

Uelzena eG is a dairy cooperative located in Northern Germany near Hamburg. Together with its subsidiary WS Warmsener Spezialitäten the milk specialist produces a high-quality milk based “Uelzena Ingredients” range and provides comprehensive contract processing services. The Uelzena Ingredients division consists of four production sites and two sales units within the Uelzena Group. The main raw material milk comes from regional milk producers of the Uelzena eG members, which all are milk supplying cooperatives. The dairy ingredients range for the baking, confectionery and delicatessen industry includes skimmed milk powder, buttermilk powder, anhydrous milk fat, sweetened condensed milk, cream and yoghurt products as well as customised milk fat products and compounds. The contract processing services are focused on drying flavours, plant extracts and natural colours as well as vitamins and minerals. Contract processing of butter and anhydrous milkfat, fractionation as well as standardising and manufacturing of cream products complete these services.