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Estonian dairy – the sector of innovation

Estonian dairy – the sector of innovation

Publish date: 2013-02-18

In the past EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) stimulated the European dairy market so that the export of so-called bulk products (products with low-added value) was profitable. The intervention of CAP involved, e.g. intervention purchases and subsidies. Nowadays, due to the reform of the policy in 1999, the agricultural market has become liberal. In response to the new situation EU and Estonian enterprises were forced to alter their strategy and fabricate products with higher added value. Going further, the investments into R&D of dairy products had to be augmented; research is focused mainly on healthiness and food quality.

Tags: biotechnology , estonia

The Estonian Bio-Competence Centre for Healthy Dairy Products encountered perfect conditions to begin its operation. The centre was established in 2004 as a result of cooperation between universities and Estonian private companies. CC acts in cooperation with milk producers and processors, which aims at technological development of their products; its objective is to “cover the entire chain of milk production, starting from cattle breeding up to making healthy milk products”.

There are two chief areas of development in the scope of the centre’s activities. Firstly, the focus is laid on milk as a foodstuff and a high added value raw material. The quality of milk is improved by the techniques of cattle breeding and nutrition, e.g. by the usage of and eventual creation of transgenic cows.

The second sector of CC’s interest is the fabrication of functional dairy foods. One of the patented outcomes of the investigations was the probiotic, lactic acid bacterium Lactobacillus plantarum NCIMB 30236. It was one of the first microorganism which was granted European Union permission and subsequently was introduced into the registered list of food additives. The bacterium, isolated on southern Estonian grasslands, can be used in animal feed to ferment silage. Thanks to this innovation, Estonia has become independent in the field of silage preservatives.

Fig. 1 Source:

The next revolutionising invention made by the Estonian competence centre is another strain of lactic acid bacteria, called Lactobacillus plantarum TENSIA. The paramount feature of these microorganisms is their ability to influence human blood pressure and suppress pathogens in food products. A very interesting example of this patent application is their utilisation for “heart healthy” cheese production. This was done thanks to cooperation between the centre and one of the biggest Estonian dairy companies, E-Piim. Having extensively examined the properties of the cheese, researchers stated, “In our clinical trials we have found that the semi hard Edam type cheese containing viable probiotic cells of L. plantarum TENSIA helps to lower peripheral systolic and diastolic blood pressure in healthy adults and elderly subjects when consumed in a daily dose of 50 g of cheese. The blood pressure lowering effect of cheese containing L. plantarum TENSIA may have potential implications for the management of subjects with elevated blood pressure”.  

Apart from the two principal subjects of study, the centre offers advisory services for milk and dairy producers (i.e. feeding, hygiene, quality etc.). They encompass recommendations concerning food ingredients and nutrition for each stage of the food production value chain. The universities that cooperate with the centre get a benefit since it tackles the core sectors of intellectual importance within their areas of specialization. 


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