The French case study aims to offer an alternative way of valorizing cheese whey – by producing a fermented drink. This will improve the competitiveness of small cheese dairies, who produce whey in small quantities and in geographically isolated areas, and often send their whey to wastewater treatment plants, biodigest it, or feed it to animals.

An “early-design making approach” maximised consumer acceptance by conducting market and consumer studies (Actalia Innovation, Petrel, in collaboration with J’aime mes bouteilles) in the developmental stage of the project. These defined and prioritised beverage concepts, including distribution mode. Additional studies evaluated environmental and economic impact (INRAE-Palaiseau; INRAE-Rennes).

After 2 years of work, the first innovative fermented drinks based on whey and fruit (or vegetable) juices are ready! They were developed by INRAE-Rennes and Laboratoires Standa, produced by Enilbio in Poligny in collaboration with Sodiaal, using whey from the Monts et Terroirs cheese dairy in Vevy. The process was adapted on a pilot scale and the drinks will be distributed in returnable and reusable bottles. This drink is perfect for an adult aperitif or a child’s snack at any time of the day!

This new drink comes in several varieties: sparkling with elderflower, apple or grape juices, and non-sparkling with apple/ apricot or apple/raspberry fruit juices. All drinks were tasted by about 60 people in a study by Actalia Sensoriel laboratory in Bourg en Bresse and two stood out as favourites: the elderflower, 77%, and the apple-raspberry, 69%. The drinks were also tasted by FAIRCHAIN partners on 7 December 2023 at a project meeting in Poligny and were thoroughly enjoyed!

The next steps in popularizing these innovative whey-based drinks are consumer studies in real-life situations for a final assessment of acceptance, and identification of the most appropriate business model(s). Environmental, social and economic assessment of the new “whey-based drinks in returnable bottles” value chain will be carried out with a focus on mid-term sustainability at a regional level.