Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Arla: Natural Dairy Goodness for Filipino Homes

Arla Foods from Denmark recently brought their Arla dairy products to Asia, specifically to the Philippines.  So…you may think…what's different about these dairy products? After talking to some of Arla's executives, learning about the unique way they process their dairy products, and finding out how they care for the farmers (and even the cows!!!), discriminating buyers like you and me will probably want to check them out. Read on...

Background of Arla Foods

Arla is the 5th largest dairy company in the world and the biggest organic dairy company worldwide. It began in the 1880s, with dairy farmers in Europe forming small-scale cooperatives in order to yield produce of higher quality. Those small groups eventually grew to form Arla Foods.

Mr. Jens Christian Krog (left), Senior General Manager for Arla Foods (Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand)
Arla's Dairy Products

Arla's products revolve around fresh milk, cheeses and cream cheeses.

They have 5 variants for fresh milk: whole Full Cream UHT milk 3.5%, Organic Full Cream milk, Lactose Free Full Cream UHT milk, semi-skimmed Low Fat UHT milk 1.5%, and skimmed Low Fat UHT milk 0.3%.

I am so happy with the Lactose Free Milk. For some time now, one of my sons has been complaining that the regular brand of milk we buy is not tolerated by his system as he is quite lactose intolerant. Well, tonight he came to us and declared that he could attest to the milk being lactose free because his tummy did not react to drinking Arla's Lactose Free milk. Hooray, I finally found a brand that will work for my son!!!

They also carry four types of cheeses: Emmental (aromatic, nutty, and spicy), Gouda (mild, sweet, and nutty), Mozzarella (mild and stretchy when melted), and Havarti (mild and creamy).

As for the cream cheeses, they come in Natural cream cheese, Natural Light, Pineapple, Herbs & Spices, and LactoFree.

More FAQs about Arla

I got to speak with Mr. Jens Christian Krog who handles the Philippine market and from him, learned more about the unique way they process and produce their dairy products. Here are some trivia to consider:

How many dairy farms do you know are farmer owned?
Arla Foods was formed from dairy farmers as far back as the 1880s, forming small scale cooperatives to yield produce of higher quality. Precisely because it is farmer-owned, Arla's strength is that it has control over the entire value chain - from the raw milk to transportation to production facilities.

Who goes the extra mile to make all their products traceable back to the farm?
Arla does. Because they exercise complete control and recording of the source of the milk, any problems a consumer experiences with any Arla product can be immediately traced back to the specific farm of origin. All farms have a number that accompanies all records and analyses from tanker to dairy. I find that a source of comfort because then potential issues can be addressed with focus and immediacy.

How differently do they treat their cows?

Arla cows are cared for by knowledgeable staff and are inspected daily. Arla farmers are not allowed to use hormones to boost growth or milk yield (THIS!!!). Arla uses its quality assurance method called Arlagaarden (pronounced Arla-Gon; gaarden meaning 'farm') to set the bar higher than already stringent EU regulations covering environmental impact of farming, animal welfare, food safety, and traceability.

Are their ingredients really all natural?

You bet. I am a label reader so I took a look at two of their milk labels. Someone once said that the way to tell what is natural is if your GRANDMOTHER could understand the ingredients. Well, look at these labels. No scientific sounding names that mean additives and preservatives. No numbers (that suggests food colorants). No artificial flavoring. Just plain milk items.

Label for their lactose-free variant reads "Whole Milk, Lactase" 
Label for their organic milk reads "Organic Whole Milk". Nothing else!
That is as natural as you can get!

But if there are no preservatives at all in the milk, how does it affect shelf life?

This was the next question I put to Mr. Krog. He then told me that Arla has innovated their process to eliminate additives or preservatives. Mr. Krog said that after obtaining the milk from the cow, it goes through a complicated process called standardization. To produce their cheeses, the milk then goes through stainless steel pipes that are hot to ensure there is no bacteria in the milk. Then they immediately chill the heated milk. Mr. Krog said that is why their cream cheeses look watery on top when first opened. He says there is nothing wrong with the cream cheese; it just proves that they do not put stabilizers in the product. All one needs to do is stir the contents so they mix again.

So what is Arla's average shelf life?

Fresh milk in normal storage situations, 1 year. Cream cheese, 9-12 months depending on the variant. Mr. Krog confirmed that it is a greater challenge to keep their products in very good condition in tropical countries like the Philippines due to our heat. But he said that is the reason they tied up with ScanAsia Overseas, Inc. (Arla's distributor in the Philippines). Their transport requirements are so stringent that they trust ScanAsia to follow these faithfully.

At the media event, we also got to try Arla which was incorporated into the products of two other well known brands -- Fog City Creamery and Bo's Coffee.

Fog City Creamery made us taste 3 different ice cream flavors that used Arla fresh milk: Vanilla Bean (using Arla's Natural Organic Milk), Aloha (using Arla's Natural Pineapple Cream Cheese), and Dark Desires (chocolate ice cream made with Arla's Natural Full Cream Milk). They were all delish!

As for Bo's Coffee, we were treated to Caffe Latte, Caffe Mocha, and Caramel Latte -- all using Arla's milk as their creamer.

Arla is truly a brand that began in Europe but is ending up in Filipino groceries for Filipino homes. With the affordable price of Arla's milk and cheeses, it is something that we can all look forward to having on our tables with most meals.

Follow Arla Foods:
Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/ArlaPH
Instagram: @arla_PH

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