Powdered milk is in utterly high demand

Transporting 'white gold'

Prolactal, established 1957, is a leading value-added dairy ingredients producer as well as a renowned manufacturer of organic infant formula. The company’s headquarters is located in Hartberg, Austria. Situated in the heart of the Alpine region in close proximity to all necessary resources, Prolactal sources premium, high quality organic milk and whey. Find out more about the transport of the “white gold”, tailor-made cardboard boxes and “odorless trucks” – and the impact these can have on packaged powdered milk.

Prolactal is represented in 35 countries across Western Europe, the Middle East and Asia Pacific, particularly in China, and has been working with cargo-partner since 2013. In the past year, cargo-partner’s comprehensive air and seafreight services for Prolactal amounted to nearly 1,000 TEU shipped by sea and 250 t transported by air – mainly to Australia and New Zealand. We talked to the factory manager at Prolactal, about the special transport requirements and the unique reputation of Austrian milk powder.

Interviewer: Powdered milk is known as a sensitive product, but at the same time it is less demanding in storage and transport than other perishable products. What special requirements need to be kept in mind during transport and storage?

Although it is true that our dried milk powders are less prone to spoilage, some products are indeed temperature-sensitive during transport. Temperatures that are too high, for example, can lead to caking. Furthermore, powdered milk is very sensitive to foreign odors. This means that the trucks we use need to be absolutely odorless, since powdered milk can absorb other smells very quickly, just like an open carton of milk in the fridge. Moreover, milk powder cannot be transported together with technical devices or products that contain allergens. There are a few other factors to consider during transport: Tarpaulin trucks have to be equipped with aluminum rather than wooden frames, and they have to be protected against water ingress.

Instead of long journeys by sea, you have the raw material milk transported by truck directly from the local farmers to your production facility. Do you think that, in the distant future, these trips may be performed by autonomous e-trucks?

I can definitely imagine that the delivery of milk from the farmers to the dairy might be done by autonomous e-trucks, since these are clearly defined and recurring routes. In cross-border transport, however, I can’t picture this happening any time soon, due to liability issues on the one hand and the large distances on the other.

cargo-partner transports Prolactal’s powdered milk to Australia and New Zealand among other destinations. How did an Austrian company come to transport this product half way around the world and serve such remote markets?

For one thing, this is the result of the unique quality of our powdered milk made from Austrian organic milk, which is highly appreciated in these countries. We have every right to be proud of this. In addition, Prolactal, as a world market leader of organic milk and whey products for baby foods, has a distinguished global customer base. The largest market for baby foods, however, is China, which is why we supply our products to many large customers in Asia.

Tailor-Made Packaging for Powdered Milk

Since the temporary storage and transport of Prolactal’s products does not require strict temperature control, the cargo is not considered particularly sensitive. A frost-protected, food-grade warehouse is sufficient. Yet, just as “regular” milk has its own special packaging in the form of milk cartons, cargo-partner has developed a tailor-made transport solution out of cardboard to meet the special requirements of dried milk and whey products.

Previously, Prolactal had had to deal with various damages claims due to inadequate packaging of their cargo during transport. cargo-partner came up with a specially adapted packaging solution to solve this challenge.

The coordination of the project, including a subsequent trial run, took around two and a half months. After a further adaptation, cargo-partner had the ideal solution: A smoothed cardboard box, height-adjustable by means of specially added folds, is pulled over a stretch-wrapped pallet. Since the cargo is not stackable, the boxes are marked with specially printed labels (“not stackable”, “handle with care”). Thanks to the new packaging solution, damages claims have dropped to near zero. All parties along the transport chain are highly satisfied with this tried and tested solution.