A new yogurt with a brand name Fruity has driven the National University of Lesotho (NUL) into frenzy. “I must admit I have tasted many yogurts. Fruity beats them all!” admitted one passionate buyer.
“Makers of fruity say they use mostly fresh natural milk and the taste bears witness,” the buyer continued. He is not alone. On Tuesdays every week, droves of passionate buyers within the NUL community descend on the premises of the Department of Animal Science. Each of them wants a taste of this amazing yogurt.
“The demand is so high we no longer use “first come first served” basis, we ration our buyers and ask them to leave some yogurt for others,” said Mr Moeketsi Ntakatsane, who is a lecturer in the Department of Animal Science at the National University of Lesotho (NUL). He is overseeing the development of this product. “We are working very hard to make sure that Fruity soon reaches the market shelves,” he said.
“There is no doubt Basotho like yogurt,” Mr Ntakatsane continued. How does he know? “Take just the months of January to March in 2015, close to 400 000 liters of yogurt was imported into the country! Put together, the yogurt is worth a whopping more than M7 million! A sad reality is that not so much as a single liter of that yogurt is made in Lesotho. We import it all.” Can that situation change? “With effort, we believe we are already changing the situation. If we receive the support we expect, we have a plan as a Department to produce and sell fruity yogurt right from the NUL.”
That many of us have tasted yogurt is not in doubt. However, few of us know what it is, except that it is obviously a milk product. It is a food produced by bacterial fermentation of milk. The bacteria used to make yogurt are known as “yogurt cultures.” “Just as you need yeast to make bread, you need yogurt cultures to make yogurt.” Mr Ntakatsane said. “Milk contains a form of sugar known as lactose which makes an average of 4.8% in cow’s milk (by weight). These bacteria feed on this sugar, breaking it down to lactic acid, which gives the yogurt its sour taste. This acid also serves an important role, that is, to retard the action of spoilage bacteria thus increasing the shelf life of yogurt compared to fresh unprocessed milk.”
Why did Mr Ntakatsane and his colleagues choose to develop yogurt of all available alternatives? “We wanted our project to be more practical,” he replied. “Milk is very much available in Lesotho. We all know that many farmers produce milk for commercial purposes. So we can safely say the raw material is available in reasonable quantities.
In addition, the technology used to produce yogurt is simple and of low-cost, so it would be easy to make. Most importantly, our Animal Science students need to learn first-hand, how animal products can be developed until they reach the markets.”
Mr Ntakatsane further admitted that while they knew how to make yogurt, getting the taste right was a different story. “We had to rely on the expertise of other colleagues, for instance, Dr Nkhabutlane from the NUL Consumer Science Unit who greatly assisted with sensory evaluation. We kept on improving the taste to the point of satisfaction of most people in the study. With the feedback we get every week, we now know that most people like this product as it is at the moment.
We are also in the process of purchasing milk analyzer which will help us to make sure that the milk we receive from farmers is of good quality in order to ensure the quality and consistency of our final product. Above all, we are going to get our product certified before hitting the markets.”
Mr Ntakatsane believes that this product will go a long way into helping local farmers gain better returns on their investment. “Presently we depend on the supply of milk from the university farm. However, once we begin operating at a bigger scale, we are going to involve farmers around the Roma Valley,” he said. “We will sign contracts with them as suppliers of fresh milk. We won’t stop there. We will guide them through the proper ways of handling animals to make the best quality milk possible.”
This blog post was originally written by NUL Research and Innovations