Tomorrow’s alcohol can be made from surplus milk sugar

Thursday 08 Feb 18


Peter Ruhdal Jensen
Professor, Head of Research Group
National Food Institute
+45 20 85 56 01


Louise Rørbæk Heiberg
Investment manager
+45 23 82 14 18

New technology from DTU can convert milk sugar (lactose) in dairy by-products into alcohol. The newly established company behind the technology has received start-up capital from CAPNOVA.

Dairies' production of cheese generates considerable amounts of the by-product whey. While large cheese producers are able to extract more value from the whey through further processing, many smaller dairies do not have the necessary technology and know-how to do so. As such, whey is of very low value to them and is often either sold for animal feed or discarded.

Bacteria convert lactose into alcohol

Researchers from the National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark, have developed a patented technology which uses lactic acid bacteria to efficiently convert lactose in the whey into ethanol. Ethanol is the type of alcohol that is found in spirits. 

The researchers have formed the company Alcowhey, which aims to help smaller dairies use the patented technology to create more value from the whey they produce. The dairies can then sell the ethanol to distillers, who can use it in the production of spirits.

"The National Food Institute has a focus on better utilization of raw materials in food production in order to minimize the waste of resources. The new technology can create a new product from a waste product, which the dairies in a best case scenario can only make a small amount of money from, and which is often an environmental problem," Professor Peter Ruhdal Jensen from the National Food Institute says.

"The new technology can create a new product from a waste product, which the dairies in a best case scenario can only make a small amount of money from, and which is often an environmental problem."
Professor Peter Ruhdal

”The Alcowhey-process has a number of advantages compared with similar yeast technologies, which makes it attractive even on a small scale and the alcohol, we can produce is very pure and suitable for the production of spirits,” Peter Ruhdal Jensen explains.

Danish investment and development company CAPNOVA has given Alcowhey start-up capital in the form of a DKK 0.5 million loan with a view to investing a further DKK three million down the track.

”AlcoWhey is interesting because it is a project with an impact. It both solves an environmental challenge for the dairy industry and converts a by-product into a high-value product. By using the technology from AlcoWhey, the dairy industry and dairies can develop a new business area. What is good for the environment is also good for customers and the business," investment manager at CAPNOVA Louise Heiberg says.

Incubator at DTU

As a DTU spin-out company, Alcowhey will continue to be based at DTU over the next couple of years. Here the company can make use of the laboratory facilities and work in synergy with the Research Group for Microbial Biotechnology and Biorefining.

Several dairies have already shown an interest in the technology and Alcowhey is looking into ways of working with distilleries.

Read more 

For more information about Alcowhey visit the company’s website. Dairies and distilleries who want to explore possible ways of working together, can contact Martin Holmboe at Alcowhey.

Go to the National Food Institute’s website to read more about the Research Group for Microbial Biotechnology and Biorefining’s research into the sustainable production of food and feed.