The ingredient “cheese powder” does not have a standard of identity set by the FDA or international standards, so it may contain whatever a supplier or food processor needs it to. Thus, cheese powder provides an economical and more “operations-friendly” choice of adding flavor to a product, when compared to the addition of expensive aged cheese. Cheese powders usually are no more than 10-15% of most final products, and the actual percentage of real cheese within that cheese powder varies from product to product.
Building Cheese Flavors
Cheese powders generally are used for dry snacks and sauces or re-hydrated and used in fillings. Some powders have no real cheese at all. However, a typical cheese powder may be a combination of up to 15% cheese, whey, vegetable oil, maltodextrin, and calcium caseinate. Often times, artificial flavors, natural flavors and flavor potentiators like disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate, MSG, autolyzed yeast extract and enzyme modified cheeses are added to cheese powder as flavor enhancers. Manipulating enzymes and cultures to create high-flavor cheeses for use in powders is sometimes better than using bland commodity cheeses. Using high-flavor cheeses allows a much more flavorful cheese powder and better value to the manufacturer.
During the process of converting cheese to a cheese powder, some volatile flavor compounds may be lost. Buttery flavor components like diacetyl and dimethyl sulfide are lost by 45% and 30% respectively, during the spray drying of the cheese and are quite important to cheese flavor.
At times, natural or artificial flavors are added to cheese powders to replace the lost flavor volatiles. Flavor compounds are casualties of heating—whether during cooking of real cheese or in the process of creating cheese powder. But the flavor of a formulated cheese powder can be enhanced by the addition of flavor potentiators, an option not available with natural cheeses.
Often, suppliers add whey, milkfat, salt and even non-dairy ingredients (such as maltodextrin or vegetable oil) to cheese when producing cheese powders. Cheese powder can be marketed as reduced-fat or reduced-sodium, by using low-fat and low-salt cheese as the cheese ingredient.
The flavoring benefits of cheese powder are particularly advantageous outside of the U.S., as countries with less dairy resources develop western taste buds.