Admittedly, it sounds a bit odd at first. What does an energy source like natural gas have to do with dairy production? Well, it turns out that the gas from OMV plays a significant part in the production of all NÖM dairy products and is in fact indispensable for their shelf life. We invited the two Managing Directors, Alfred Berger and Josef Simon, to tell us a bit more.
Most people in Austria have been familiar with the European dairy company NÖM from their childhood. Founded in 1898, today NÖM stands as one of the most successful Austrian companies in the dairy industry. Mr. Berger and Mr. Simon gave us a fascinating insight into why NÖM relies primarily on OMV Gas for its energy needs.
From fresh milk to long-life milk, different yoghurts and yoghurt drinks in a variety of flavors, the product range of one of OMV's biggest gas customers is exceptionally diverse. Even Austria's very first fruit yoghurt comes from NÖM: fru fru. The fruit yoghurt was introduced around a century ago and has been hugely popular ever since. One thing that also goes back many years – albeit not quite that many – is the cooperation and partnership between NÖM and OMV. The companies have been working together for more than 20 years. It's no exaggeration to say that OMV Gas makes a decisive contribution to manufacturing the diverse NÖM products.
Around 1.2 million liters of milk are processed every day at NÖM. Mr. Simon, NÖM Director of Production and Technology, explains how OMV Gas is used for producing steam. "In general it's possible to use different systems for dairy production, such as warm water and hot water heating systems. But we only produce heat from steam." Raw milk is heated to up to 140 degrees Celsius with the help of heat exchangers and then processed into the dairy products. Depending on how long the shelf life of the product should be, the pasteurization temperature is turned down or up. Pasteurization kills off any undesired bacteria and germs in order to give the milk a long life. When preparing fresh milk, raw milk is heated to around 72-75 degrees Celsius. To make the shelf life even longer, the milk is either filtered or very quickly brought up to a very high heat (max. 135 degrees Celsius). To maximize efficiency, the residual heat generated is also reused, for example to heat the NÖM offices.
We see gas a green energy option. A long time ago we had steam boilers powered by coal or oil. They were real soot monsters. Gas happens to be the cleanest energy and that's why – going back as long as I can remember – we have relied solely on gas for steam production.
Josef Simon, NÖM Director of Production and Technology
NÖM is Austria's first CO2-neutral dairy and has chosen natural gas primarily because of its environmental credentials compared to other energy sources. Gas has a lower carbon component than other fossil fuels, generates hardly any CO2 emissions, and is practically dust and soot-free when incinerated. What's more, gas has a high calorific value despite being environmentally sound. For NÖM OMV Gas cannot be replaced by any other energy source, mainly thanks to its great efficiency – a comparatively low amount of gas has a huge impact. "You are the pros of the gas business, you know just what we need and our supply structure. We are straightforward users – everyone should play to their strengths", concludes Mr. Simon.
But alongside the environmental benefits, OMV Gas offers a completely different and decisive advantage: "One really important aspect for us is security of supply. We process milk from almost 3,000 farmers from Lower Austria, Burgenland and Eastern Styria. Over 400 million kilograms, that is 1.2 million kilograms a day, that have to be treated within 24 hours. We are a local supplier for Lower Austria and Vienna, that is more than 3 million people. So it's a top priority for us to build on a reliable gas supplier like OMV. Otherwise we wouldn't be able to process the milk in case of a gas fallout and we would need to dispose of it at high costs", says Mr. Simon. This aspect was really brought home to NÖM during the gas crisis at the beginning of 2009, when they saw that they could rely on their partner OMV 100%, even though there were supply bottlenecks in the sector.
But NÖM doesn't only produce for the domestic market in Austria. Almost half of total production – around 45% – is exported to 24 countries throughout the whole of Europe: from Germany via Benelux through to Scandinavia. Interestingly, the biggest export market is now Italy, having edged out Germany from the top spot. The NÖM Director of Marketing, Sales and Finance Mr. Berger explains: "Italy is a crucial market for us as dairy consumption in Italy is far below half that of Austria and we hope and assume that it will continue to grow in the next ten to twenty years. What's more, there is huge demand for milk in Italy – it purchases almost one billion kilograms of milk, a lot of which goes into producing Italian parmesan and mozzarella."
I am very pleased that NÖM and OMV are not just working together in the gas business, but we have recently launched the first VIVA own brand. We have been supplying the VIVA markets from their beginnings and are now starting a new dimension in our cooperation with the VIVA own coffee drinks.
Alfred Berger, NÖM Director of Marketing, Sales and Finance
We couldn't pass up the opportunity to quizz the directors about their favorite NÖM products. "For me it's fru fru and NÖM Cafe Cappuccino – so, thick and thin," beams Mr. Berger. "Of course mine are the new mango-flavored NÖM PRO protein crème and the NÖM PRO protein drink with vanilla flavor," grins Mr. Simon.
For more information on OMV Gas, please follow this link.