Major Spanish dairy Feiraco and Danish ingredients supplier Chr Hansen have demonstrated their faith in the potential of Europe's ethnic markets by launching a fermented milk aimed at Spain's estimated population of 700,000 Arab Muslims. Called laban, the milk forms a crucial part of the Arab diet, but until now has not been available in Spain and imports have been scarce. Laban is a highly acidic cow's milk, originally from Lebanon, and has a similar texture to kefir. Like kefir, laban is said to have gut and other health benefits.
"After two long years of investigation and developing, we have at last succeeded in introducing this fermented milk product to the Muslim community in Spain," said Jose Luis Antuña, general manager of Feiraco, which also worked with the Dairy Products Division of the University of Santiago in developing the milk. "From the beginning we made a study of viability from all perspectives, and realised an important number of trials in collaboration with the Dairy Products Division of the University of Santiago and the leader within dairy cultures, the global ingredients producer Chr Hansen," said Antuña. "We have obtained the wished quality standards with the cultures from Chr Hansen, among them the CHN-22 (dairy cultures), and the Arab community in Spain has finally received a product with cultural roots."
Laban is very popular in many Middle East countries and companies such as Danone sell large volumes there, sometimes in the form of drinking yoghurt. Danone reports that in most Middle Eastern markets laban outsells regular milk, even in countries such as Saudi Arabia, which has a large European and American expatriate population.