April 17, 2015 — CHEESE MARKET NEWS® 11
By Chelsey Dequaine
MANTORVILLE, Minn. — Following the American Dairy Products Institute’s (ADPI) Award of Merit in 2000 for his lifetime contributions to the lactose processing industry, Kent Keller and his company entered into an asset purchase agreement and a multi-year exclusive consulting agreement with Relco LLC. As part of the agreement, the name of Keller’s company was changed from Whey Systems Inc. (WSI) to Keller Technologies Inc. (KTI).
During the term of the agreements, Keller assisted in the design of Relco’s lactose systems and patented a unique permeate drying system. The permeate drying patent was later sold to Relco. Keller’s non-compete agreement for lactose terminated in 2010, and his non-compete agreement covering permeate drying expired April 11 of this year.
Keller says KTI is again directly supplying technology and equipment for manufacturing lactose and dried permeate.
“The lactose crystals in KTI’s new logo emphasize our focus on lactose containing products,” Keller says. “The circle represents our worldwide scope of supply. We have found by focusing on doing the best job we possibly can today, the future takes care of itself. My experience has been that those we serve can propel us far beyond what I could have ever envisioned or hoped for.”
KTI will introduce its Next Generation lactose systems and permeate dryers at the ADPI meeting in Chicago April 26-28.
Keller’s lactose technology has been accepted and installed in new lactose facilities in countries such as Finland, New Zealand, Australia, India, Canada, Chile, Brazil and Germany. Keller says the list has grown to over 70 lactose and permeate systems.
KTI was originally founded in 1980 as Whey Systems, Inc. with offices in Mantorville, Minnesota. Previously, Keller was the production manager for the Stauffer Chemical Co. whey processing plant in Rochester, Minnesota. Keller says that facility produced the first commercial quantities of whey protein concentrate (WPC) by using ion exclusion.
In 1980, Stauffer made a corporate decision to exit the food ingredients business. Keller says he was faced with the choice of taking a company transfer to a chemical plant or pursuing something else. He chose the latter.
“I was convinced there was a future for the high quality proteins found in whey,” Keller says.
His passion for new and novel proteins developed when he was in the Peace Corps. Keller says the children in the Mayan Indian village in British Honduras (now Belize) where he worked had kwashiorkor, a form of malnutrition caused by protein deficiency in the diet typically affecting young children in the tropics.
Upon returning to the United States, Keller was determined to use his degree in chemical engineering and his experience in the chemical industry to help develop lower cost proteins that could find their way back to tropical villages. To better equip himself for this task, Keller studied two years at Michigan State University, focusing on food science, biochemistry and microbiology and completed research on the Fermentation of Cheese Whey to a High Protein Cattle Feed Supplement.
“I’ve been stuck on whey ever since,” Keller says.
Even though Keller founded WSI to provide technology for making WPC, he realized the success of whey protein concentrates was going to require an economically viable use for the byproduct, permeate. At the time, Keller says the most profitable use of permeate was for the production of lactose. He switched his focus from whey proteins to lactose production.
“My combination of farm background, a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and a master’s degree in microbiology has helped us deliver the most economical systems for the production of lactose,” Keller says.
As KTI grows, Keller says it may need another employee with an engineering degree and experience in the dairy industry.
For more information, visit www.kellertec.com CMN
The oldest surviving Keller Technologies, Inc. Lactose Dryer (pictured above with Kent Keller) was built in 1981 and is still fully operational and running effectively.
With over 40 years of experience, Keller Technologies, Inc. continues to use that experience to improve its systems for lactose crystallizing, drying and refining.