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Our history – a first-hand chronicle

Prolactal-Geschichte-Milchuebernahme-70er
Prolactal opened its doors at the current location in Hartberg in the year 1957. But the foundation was laid many years earlier in 1929.

Long-time employee Günther Jöstl helped put Prolactal’s history on paper – with the help of his uncle Karl Jöstl (76 years), and several other former employees.

It all started back in 1929 when the construction of a dairy in Hartberg started. The dairy was located, where at present the electrical business Blödorn Hartberg is located (1 km away from Prolactal’s current location). At that time the dairy, the dairy farmers, and the Wechselgau were one cooperative.

Back then, the company produced butter, curd and yogurt. Excess milk, from the vicinity of Hartberg and the Pöllauer valley, was transported in cans to the Milchhof Graz. The amount of milk delivered at that time was 25,000 – 30,000 lt a day. The cans were emptied and cleaned by hand, the milk pasteurized and centrifuged. The centrifuges had to be dismantled and cleaned manually every day. The butter was produced in a wooden butter barrel. Next to the dairy there was a wooden house for the sale of butter, curd and yoghurt. Pasteurised milk was sold through a milk dispenser (the bottle had to be brought by the consumer).


Prolactal-Geschichte-erste-Molkerei-in-Hartberg-1929
Hartberg in 1929: wooden house in front of the dairy; used for selling dairy products

 


Some farmers separated the milk at the milk collection points, using a manually operated centrifuge, to separate the cream. They sold this cream to the dairy and the skimmed milk was fed to the calves by these farmers. This dairy was operated from 1929 – 1960.

1956: The first blueprints for the new dairy and milk drying plant were drawn. For the dairy, a semi-automated can acceptance (with conveyor belt), a milk pasteurization, a buttery as well as a new evaporator for milk drying (3000 litres of milk /h), a roller dryer (350 kg powder/h), a manual packaging room and a powder storage facility (with 100 m2) were planned.

In 1957 construction began at the current location.

Prolactal-Geschichte-Butterfassnalage-1929
Buttery, 1960

In 1960, the new dairy and the roller dryer were put into operation. The roller-dried powder was mainly sold to the chocolate industry. The rolling drying process used to be common. Today, it is usually dried using the spray drying process.

Prolactal-Geschichte-Walzentrockner-60er
Roller dryer, 1960

From 1960 to 1990, ÖMOLK (Austrian dairy and cheese association) based in Vienna regulated and divided the quantities of milk for our drying plant, as well as the sale of milk powder. 

Prolactal-Geschichte-Oemolk-60er
Men loading bags of powdered milk, 1960 ÖMOLK

1962: construction of the first spray tower for 3000 litres milk/h as well as an evaporation plant. There the evaporator concentrated the milk from 13% to 48% dry matter. This concentrate (approx. 750 lt/h) is pumped into the tower via an atomizer. With hot air of 200°C, the milk concentrate is dried into powder. A tank farm with 7 tanks of 10,000 lt each was built.

1963: the second spray tower was built, here it was possible to dry twice as much milk (6000 lt/h) and a tank farm with 4 tanks of 15,000 lt and 3 tanks of 10,000 lt followed.

Prolactal-Geschichte-Turm-2-1963
Second spray tower, 1963

1965: changeover from sacks and sack sleds to pallets and lifting trucks. This year the dairy separated from the Wechselgau. At that time, the dairy purchased raw milk from the region, later also from other regions of Austria. The customers mainly used the products for the food and chocolate industry.

In 1968, the company built the third spray tower  – and again it exceeded the other two towers in size. 9,000 lt of milk/h are dried here. The packaging was still made by hand at that time. The bags were manually weighed to 25 kilos each, welded on the inside, sewn on the outside and hand-finished on pallets. During summer the temperatures went up to 40°C, that was hard work.

1969: construction of the spray tower 4, 13,000 lt of milk could now be dried per hour, and again with a new tank farm with 4 tanks of 80,000 lt. Up to 55 bags of each 25kg per hour were manually packed by 4 people.

1970: this was the year Agrosserta was founded. Agrosserta included our drying milk plant, the slaughterhouse in Graz, and the sausage factory in Klagenfurt. Milk volumes and sales have still been driven by ÖMOLK.

Prolactal-Geschichte-Hauptgebaeude-Buero-1970
Main office building, 1970

1974: installation of the first powder mixing plant (Gericke) with an automatic bagging system and 6 silos with 50m³ content (25t powder). This was a great physical relief for the ca. 140 employees who were employed at Prolactal at that time.

In 1975, the company invested in a powder mixer (V mixer), which was used to mix 85% whole milk powder with 15% liquid cocoa with a capacity of approx. 15t/day. This powder was mainly bought by customers in Japan. During this time, the dry milk plant earned a lot of money, but it was invested in the slaughterhouse in Graz and in the sausage factory in Klagenfurt instead of in Hartberg. This was very bad for the future.

1990 – 1996: Foundation of AMF (Austria milk and meat):
Around six companies were part of the AMF. Each company had between two and eight dairies in different locations within the region. Many of these businesses were shut down after the EU accession.

1991: sale of fist roller dryer (installed 1960) because it no longer met the quality and safety requirements.

1993: sale of V-mixer, and investment in a new soldered powder mixer with modern PLC control. This mixer had 3 times the mixing power.

From 1994 to 2010, this branch of production was one of the main businesses. In one week, we were able to reach about 200t of whole milk powder with 15% liquid cocoa mass, which 80% of were sold to Japan.

1994 – 1995: the AMF wrote very poor figures.

1996: Two active board members of the AMF bought the drying milk factory from the AMF and founded a new one.

1997: investment in a used two-roller dryer, here approx. 80% whole milk powder and 20% skimmed milk powder was dried. The dryer had an hourly capacity of approx. 450kg whole milk powder per hour.

1997: joint construction of a lactose hydrolysis plant with the university of natural resources and applied life sciences, Vienna, planned by the university and built by us. With this plant, we split the lactose from the whey into glucose and galactose using membrane technology and an enzyme. This whey was mainly sold to the ice cream and beverage industry as liquid hydrolysed whey concentrate in containers.

1998: the first ion exchange for demineralisation of whey was used. Up to 4t of demineralised whey powder with 90% demineralisation level could be processed per day.

In 1999, business areas were expanded, and market opportunities seized, including the drying of egg powder in tower 2. The plant no longer dried milk powder in power 1 and 2.

2004: purchase of a further two-roller dryer with a capacity of approx. 350kg powder/h. In the period from 2002 – 2010, roller drying was one of the main businesses in the company. Most of the roller-dried whole milk powder was sold to the chocolate industry.

2008: hygiene standards continued to rise and with them the need for process optimization in the cleaning department. For this reason, we replaced the cleaning system we had been using since 1968 with a new fully automatic cleaning system (CIP) for pipes and milk tanks.

2008 – 2020: Since, the hygiene and quality requirements of our customers increased significantly during this time, we had to invest in the two areas; product safety and quality. First, we invested in a fully automatic cleaning system for pipelines and tanks. Since that time, our employee Günther Jöstl alone with the Prolactal-team,  have planned and commissioned new plants and rebuilt and optimized older plants.

2011: the electrodialysis plant was built, making the demineralisation of whey many times more efficient, with output increasing from four to 18t/day. This laid the foundation for today’s worldwide success of Prolactal – the market leader in infant nutrition, because the demineralisation of whey is fundamental to this.

2012: purchase of an evaporation plant. Thus 3,000 lt of concentrate could now be pre-concentrated from 20,000 lt of liquid. The evaporated and filtered water in the process is partly used for cleaning the plant.

2013: first ultrafiltration plant which separates milk protein from milk sugar (lactose) by means of fine filters (membrane). Now all the valuable components of the milk can be separated and further processed by customers. Pasteurisation and skimming of the milk produce cream, from which the butter is made, the remaining skimmed milk is separated by the new ultrafiltration plant into 80% protein concentrate and lactose concentrate and then dried.

2013: the next important step was the purchase of a lactose drying plant. In this plant, the lactose is washed clean by 3 decanters and then dried with a fluidised bed dryer. The lactose must not contain more than 0.3% protein. Also, a casein plant was purchased. In this plant, 20,000 lt of skimmed milk are separated per hour by adding acid to acid casein and whey. With the help of 2 decanters the acid casein is washed clean and then dried with a fluidized bed dryer. The whey produced is separated into protein concentrate and lactose concentrate by the ultrafiltration plant. Both concentrates are dried separately.

2014: investment in the first microfiltration plant. The milk protein (casein) can now be separated from the whey: a fine membrane filters the pure casein from the milk. This plant is still the largest in Europe today. 25,000 lt pass through the process every hour. Further, a second ultrafiltration plant with a processing volume of 25,000 lt per hour and a 25,000 lt raw milk pasteurisation plant were commissioned. This enabled us to buy raw milk for further processing.

2015: Acquisition by ICL Group. After an elaborate planning over 1.5 years, the construction of the new spray tower began, with an output of 2,000 kg powder/hour. It went into operation in January 2016. Usually, the construction time for such a plant is 2 years but with united forces, the Prolactal-team built it in one year. This spray tower can dry different powder structures (coarse/fine) according to customer requirements. This investment was one of the most important investments for our site to meet the baby food standard.

2017: a new evaporation plant for lactose was built. Water is extracted from 20,000 lt of whey per hour and the minerals are precipitated and separated by heat. We can now increase lactose yield and quality.

2018: customer requirements increase. Especially in the baby food sector, hygiene standards are extremely important. Since 80% of our sales are in this area, we have invested in a fully automated packaging line in 2018. The high-tech bagging system fills the finished powder under the most hygienic conditions. 250 bags of 25 kg each are filled in just one hour and placed on pallets with the help of a robot. Additional chemical microbiological samples are taken during the packaging process. In the laboratory, these samples are examined precisely according to customer specifications. Now we send the products to over 35 countries around the world.

2019: start of construction for the third line in the new lactose bagging area. Here the lactose is stored in silos and post-dried, so we can increase our quality even more. With this machine we can pack 25 kg bags or big bags up to 1000 kg under the most hygienic conditions.

2020: the planning of a further spray tower is in progress.

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