The European Patent Office has granted Agroscope a patent for its new cheese maturing process. This patent was published - and thus became effective - on January 25, 2023 in the European Patent Bulletin. It will now be registered in some countries.
In 2020, Agroscope applied for a patent for its new maturing process, which works as follows: after leaving the salt bath, the cheeses are wrapped in a biodegradable cloth. The microflora on the surface of the cheese then grows on the cloth, which can simply be removed after maturing. A small part of the microflora remains on the cheese, which allows it to keep its typical orange-brown rind.
Successful co-creation between research and practice
In order to introduce this new process in practice, Agroscope is working with 13 small and large cheese dairies, two textile companies and a machine manufacturer. The trials carried out so far have involved a wide variety of hard and semi-hard cheeses. The knowledge and experience required for the successful introduction of the process in all the participating cheese dairies has proven to be available.
"The new process also opens up interesting possibilities for innovation," says Philipp Koller of the Koller Cheese Dairy in St. Margrethen, who has been involved in the project from the start. He adds: "The patent is important because it increases the security of investment planning.
Currently, the patent (3 981 258) protects the new process in six countries (Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Italy, France and the Netherlands). In order to further protect the invention from a geographical and content point of view, Agroscope will file a subsequent application for a "Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT)". The PCT is an international patent cooperation treaty.
For the first tests, the cheeses were packed by hand. We can imagine that small cheese dairies, such as alpine cheese dairies, will continue to do this in the future. Large companies, on the other hand, need to be able to package their cheeses automatically. For this reason, Agroscope is currently developing a prototype machine in collaboration with the machine company zmb automation belp AG.
Objective: the widest possible application
"It is important that as many cheese dairies as possible use this process. This will make the fabric and packaging machines cheaper and more cost-effective for everyone," says Hans-Peter Bachmann, project scientist at Agroscope and co-inventor of the new process. In addition, researchers at Agroscope are currently testing a similar process for the production of vegan food. A European patent application has already been filed in this area.
- Mountain cheese dairy Gais
- Mountain cheese dairy Marbach
- Mountain Cheese Dairy Oberberg
- Emmi Switzerland
- Cheese dairy Flüeler Alpnach and Molkerei Davos
- Village cheese dairy Küssnacht / Intercheese
- Lustenberger & Dürst / Fromagerie Koller
- Cheese dairy Seiler
- Simmental Switzerland
- Ufficio consulenza agricola (Alpine cheese dairies, on-farm processing and extension in Ticino)
- Tilsiter Switzerland
- Wildberg Käse
- E. Schellenberg Textildruck AG
- ISA Sallmann AG
- zmb automation belp AG
About cheese maturation
Almost half of Swiss cheeses are swabbed. They are rubbed with a mixture of water, salt and sometimes bacterial cultures. These include traditional cheeses such as Appenzeller, Tilsiter and Raclette, as well as many local and regional specialties. The orange-brown rind is characteristic, as it consists of a microflora, the morge, which breaks down the lactic acid in the cheese and thus contributes to its typical aroma.
The new cheese ripening process developed by Agroscope has interesting advantages, as it requires much less work than traditional cheese ripening. In addition, the cheeses lose much less water during ripening, which speeds up the process and results in a thinner rind, a more intense aroma and a more tender texture. After ripening, the rind can be removed very easily. Since a small amount of the rind remains on the surface of the cheese, the cheeses retain their distinctive orange-brown rind. Cheeses ripened by this method do not give off bad odors during pre-packaging and do not stick.