In an effort to substitute dairy imports, Koufuku International Limited (KIL), a dairy processing plant at Chenary in Trashigang has managed to replace imported yoghurt in the inflight meals for the two Bhutanese airlines.

Since October this year, KIL has been supplying about 6,000 cups of premium probiotic yoghurt (Delight Bhutan) every week for the national airline Drukair.

The firm is an ISO 22000:2005 (Food Safety Management System) and a Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) certified diary processing company.

To diversify its products, the company started producing premium probiotic yoghurt since September this year and the feedback has been positive according to the officials.

The company today produces plain and strawberry-flavoured probiotic yoghurts. More flavours are in the pipeline according to officials.

KIL’s chief executive officer, Ugyen Dendup, said the company was initially established as a gauda factory, which is why standardisation and introduction of new products in the local market has been a big challenge.

With the formulation of the yoghurt now set, the CEO said that the company could easily produce 30,000 cups of yoghurt a day. “However, getting market for the products is the biggest challenge currently.”

It was learnt that the company has proposed the education ministry to introduce yoghurt in school feeding programmes given its nutritional value.

“Dairy products contain specific nutrients that cannot be substituted with other diets. With incidences of malnutrition in schools, it would be a wise move if schools can provide dairy products such as yoghurts in their diets,” said Ugyen Dendup.

He said that after consulting with the dzongkhag education officer in Trashigang and Mongar, the company managed to supply yoghurts to some of the boarding and central schools in the two dzongkhags.

In Trashigang, about 6,000 cups of yoghurt are distributed every month. “Given the limited budget the school feeding programme has, it is not enough for students to afford yoghurt in their daily meals,” said the CEO. “If we are to invest in human capital, we have to start from the diet of our school going children.”

The company is also planning to produce gauda-flavoured processed cheese to substitute the import of chedder-falvoured cheese (Amul, Britiana, GO).

Ugyen Dendup said the country imports processed cheese worth Nu 1.6 billion (B) annually. He said the import could be easily substituted if the factory starts producing processed cheese.

However, the local consumption of dairy products has remained low. The CEO said that the rate of return on their products is comparatively higher.

The company has gauda cheese worth Nu 7 million (M) in the factory inventory waiting to be sold. Except for high-end tourist restaurants and a handful of supermarkets in Thimphu, not many people opt for gauda cheese.

Initially, given the low quality of milk, the company had to dispose of almost 95 percent of the gauda cheese it produced. Now with the improved quality of milk, KIL produces almost 100 percent yield in the form of gauda cheese.

The company has the capacity to produce almost a tonne of gauda cheese every week.  However, there is a market for only about 70kg today. “This is why we want to convert some of the gauda into processed cheese that is palatable to the Bhutanese taste buds.”

With all the nutritional values the dairy products have, Ugyen Dendup said that market acceptance is low. “By the end of the year we would be exporting our products like gauda cheese, yoghurt and curd to the Indian market,” he said. “Once the market opens, we can go on full-scale production.”

Younten Tshedup  | Trashigang