In terms of nutrition, chocolate - one of the “space products” that Arla Foods is sending to NASA - is the equivalent of a glass of milk.
“You don’t drink this milk, you eat it!” says Carsten Hallund Slot, Project Manager in charge of Arla Foods’ partnership with NASA Food Technology Commercial Space Center in the US. “The product is not only designed for astronauts, it can also be used by sportsmen and women or, for instance, during expeditions to the Arctic.”
After 18 months’ development work, the project group is now ready to deliver the first products to the US Space administration for evaluation.
The products comprise four types of fresh yoghurt, a powder-based yoghurt and powder-based milk drinks in three flavours. The most exciting product, however, is “space chocolate” in the form of a milk protein bar covered in chocolate.
“The greatest challenge for us was to develop milk with a long shelf-life. Having examined several options, the solution turned out to be a protein bar with the equivalent nutritional value as a glass of full-fat milk,” explains Carsten Hallund Slot.
The product contains proteins from Arla Foods Ingredients and has been developed in collaboration with the Danish chocolate manufacturer, Toms.
Initially, the protein bar was the size of a Mars bar.
“But when you bit into it, there were crumbs – which aren’t desirable in a weightless environment. Therefore, we’ve divided the chocolate bar up into seven small pieces in each pack.”
NASA’s astronauts can look forward to Arla Foods’ new space products – including a chocolate bar which may get closer to Mars than any run-of-the-mill Mars bar ever did.
One problem with this solution, however, is that the pieces are liable to melt into each other if the pack comes into contact with heat from the space ship’s computers or other technical equipment. To avoid this, the chocolate bar has been dipped in a sugar mix which gives it a hard surface.
“Toms asked what colour we wanted the pieces to be and we chose green to match the Arla Foods’ logo. And we all know that creatures from Mars are green…..”, smiles Carsten Hallund Slot. “
The chocolate bar – and other products - will be despatched to NASA in early April.