‘Health over taste’: Malaysian kefir firm lauds benefits of coconut and goat’s milk over traditional dairy
According to MayKef Director Asri Othman, goat’s milk kefir in particular is a lot easier on the gut as goat’s milk is easier to digest, as well as less allergenic than cow’s milk making it a good option for those with dairy allergies.
“Goat’s milk contains less casein than cow’s milk and the fat molecules are smaller, making it easy to digest whilst it cleanses the intestines. It has more prebiotics and is higher in vitamins and minerals than cow’s milk,” Asri told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“[We opted to make a goat’s milk kefir] based on these benefits as well as the fact that goat’s milk is less allergenic – it does not contain the allergenic A1 casein protein like cow’s milk, which makes it suitable for those who are allergic to cow’s milk.
“Using goat’s milk also ensure a higher source of calcium, vitamin B, vitamin A, iron, and more potassium than regular cow’s milk – it is really very similar to human milk except for folic acid and Vitamin C content.”
MayKef also has a coconut milk kefir product, which has the added advantage of being plant-based.
“Because our coconut milk kefir is naturally fermented from living fresh coconut milk, [it] is a pure plant-based fermented drink which is suitable for vegans, and is lactose-free, casein-free with the benefits of virgin coconut oil in it too,” said Asri.
“Our coconut milk kefir is considered the most powerful vegan probiotic on the Malaysian market, based on a lab test report by the Melaka Biotech Corporation showing that there are trillions of CFU of beneficial bacteria per serving.
“All our kefirs could potentially have faster good effects on the gut than drugs, due to components such as lactic acid, exopolysaccharides, and bioactive peptides – though making this sort of claim is not the route we want to take, there can be no doubt about the health benefits.”
Health over taste
All of MayKef’s kefir products – including one that is made from cow’s milk, for consumers who insist on dairy - are naturally fermented using live kefir grain, and MayKef stands apart from its competitors in that it has focused wholeheartedly on the health benefits of its products, without any intention to sacrifice these for taste.
Kefir grain is a natural starter for kefir production, and consists of a variety of bacterial and yeast species.
“[The original taste of the kefir] is more of a sour, tangy one, especially as we do not add any sugar or sweeteners,” said Asri.
“We made a conscious decision to not do this as adding sugar would increase alcohol levels, and the only way to prevent this would be to kill off colonies of good bacteria that bring the most benefit to the gut, which is something we are not willing to do.
“Most kefirs available in the supermarkets have opted to do this but not us - we won’t tolerate reducing bacteria strains in order to make our kefir tasty.”
That said, MayKef has still managed to find a significant following of its own by selling via pharmacies, health shops, food service outlets and mobile agents all over the country – its Facebook page has well over 10,000 followers, testament that its higher health benefits have still managed to draw a crowd.
“This has been a challenge - right now we aren’t yet on supermarket shelves as these retailers regularly tell us that without good taste, it will be hard for consumers to accept the product even with the superior health benefit,” said Asri.
“However, our mission is to produce the most beneficial products possible for consumers, so we will not be compromising on this or adding anything to kill off the good bacteria.
“Right now, consumers who don’t like the taste but want the health benefits have opted to blend our kefirs with juices or fruits.”
Despite this hurdle, MayKef has managed to attract the foreign interest, particularly for its goat milk kefir.
“Currently, there has been some interest and enquiries from Japan and Dubai – Dubai especially was interested in the goat’s milk product, and also because our kefir is certified halal,” said Asri.
“We’re in discussions, but the focus right now is very much on conquering the market in West Malaysia, across more retail platforms.”
One way forward would be to overcome the taste hurdle without having to compromise on good bacteria, which MayKef is currently engaging in research to do.
“We are working with universities to formulate consumer-friendly kefir by using the latest technologies or formulations – we’re thinking that dry-freezing might be an option,” he said.
“It’s really important to us as local scientists also recently found nine new yeast bacteria strains in this Malaysian kefir, including species such Kodamaea Ohmeri, Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, Saccharomyces Boulardii and Kazachstania Unispora, and [we are anxious to benefit more consumers with this].”