Indian families have been making curd or dahi at home by fermentation of milk left overnight with curd culture. It’s comparatively easy during summer when the room temperature is warmer and conducive to the conversion of milk into curd when left overnight. However, the practice of making curd at home is slowly becoming obsolete lost due to urbanisation and the pressures of time on families with working couples. As a result, packaged and branded curd has become a popular retail food item. There are over a dozen popular brands available. Consumer Voice identified 10 brands of curd and two brands of probiotic variety available across regions sold in varied pack sizes between 200gm to one kg. Prices per 100gm can be compared easily. These include Patanjali at Rs 5, Amul Masti sold at Rs 6.25, Vita at Rs 7.5 and Madhusudan at Rs 8, which are the cheapest. More expensive brands include Nestle A+ Nourish at 13.75, Britannia Daily Fresh at Rs 13.50 and Nova at Rs 13 followed by Ananda, Gowardhan and Paras—each at Rs 12.5. At the mid-price range, we have Mother Dairy at Rs 10. Curd sold at different price points is essentially a generic product which can be compared on quality parameters that can be tested in a lab.
What is curd?
Curd or dahi is produced by bacterial fermentation of boiled milk. The bacteria used to make curd are known as “dahi cultures”. The quality of curd depends on the culture used as well as the initial quality of milk and other ingredients added.
Ten brands of plain curd were tested by Consumer Voice in a lab.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host. Only two of the best selling probiotic brands were tested by Consumer Voice. These include Mother Dairy at Rs 12.5 and Nestle at Rs 17.5 per 100gm.
Consumer Voice tested 10 plain curd brands in a NABL accredited lab. Samples were bought from the market at retail without knowledge of the manufacturers. These brands were tested on quality, safety and acceptability parameters such as milk fat, solids not fat (SNF), milk protein, calcium, phosphorus, acidity, cholesterol, saturated fats, carbohydrates, whey, sensory, and phosphatase activity. Consumer Voice also carried out a series of tests to check for presence of heavy metals and microbiological contamination. These parameters were given weightage out of 100 marks. After lab tests, these marks were added. Ananda got the highest marks at 88/100 followed by Paras at 87, Britannia at 85, Amul Masti at 84, Mother Diary at 83, Gowardhan at 82 and Nestle and Patanjali each at 81. It may be pointed out that Patanjali claimed cow milk usage which has comparatively lesser milk fat. Vita and Nova scored 79 and 78 respectively while Madhusudan was not scored for comparison due to poor quality.
Ananda has been ranked as the “best buy” in plain curd while Amul Masti has been ranked as best “value for money” due to its low price and good quality. It’s heartening to observe the swadeshi brand Patanjali ranked equal to the score of 81 for Nestle, an MNC brand.
The only two probiotic curd brands tested were Mother Dairy at 90 marks which is the “best buy” compared to Nestle with 88 marks. The plain curd brands were prepared from toned milk except Patanjali which is made from cow milk, while the probiotic brands were prepared from double-toned milk. Mother Dairy is the best performer with Nestle close behind.
Major quality in curd was tested according to physicochemical parameters
Fat is an essential part of any balanced diet, providing essential fatty acids, fat-soluble vitamins and a concentrated source of energy. As per Dietary Guidelines for Indians by National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, 2011, diets of young children and adolescents should contain about 30gms to 50gms fat per day. So, a higher amount of milk fat is better for consumers.
As per their declaration, all brands of plain curd have been made from toned milk except Patanjali which was made from cow milk and the probiotic curd from double-toned milk.
Nova and Patanjali did not meet the minimum requirement for milk fat content. Britannia (3.2%) had the highest amount of milk fat among all the tested brands. Ananda, Amul Masti and Nestle a+ Nourish (3.1% each) came next.
Solids not fat (SNF)
Milk has mainly two constituents: fat and solids not fat (SNF). Apart from fat, all other solids such as protein, lactose, vitamins and minerals together make up solids not fat. The minimum requirement for SNF is 8.5% for toned milk and 9% for double-toned milk. For cow milk SNF requirement is minimum 8.3%.
SNF content was above the minimum requirement in all brands. It was highest in Paras (12.5%) among plain curd brands and in Nestle a+ Actiplus (11.9%) among the probiotic brands.
Proteins are an extremely important class of naturally occurring compounds that are essential to all life processes.
Protein content in all brands except Mother Dairy Classic was higher than their declared values. Paras had the highest protein content (4.9%), followed by Patanjali (4.8%) and Ananda (4.6%).
Curd is rich in calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and sodium, and is a significant source of vitamin B12 as well as a certain amount of folic acid.
Calcium was highest in Madhusudan (191.8mg/100gm) and lowest in Britannia (120.1 mg/100 gm). Phosphorus was highest in Madhusudan (117.3mg/100gm), followed by Ananda (112.6mg/100gm). Nestle a+ Nourish (76.5 mg/100gm) had the lowest amount of phosphorus.
Titratable acidity as lactic acid
This is the total amount of acid in the food product. Acidity is due to lactic acid produced by the action of bacteria on the lactose in milk. As acidity increases with storage time, this parameter is also a means of checking storage conditions.
As per Indian Standard (which is voluntary unless specifically mentioned), total acidity of curd should be in the range of 0.6% to 0.8%. Higher acidity will translate into more acidic taste of the curd and that is not desirable.
Six brands—Patanjali, Gowardhan, Vita, Paras, Amul Masti and Mother Dairy Probiotic—were within the prescribed limits of Indian Standard which is voluntary.
Saturated fats are expected to be as less as possible in curd.
Saturated fat was comparatively less in the probiotic brands, at 1.2% in Mother Dairy and 1.3% in Nestle as made from double toned milk. Among the plain curd brands, saturated fat was lowest in Nova (1.9%).
Cholesterol is expected to be as low as possible.
Among plain curd brands, cholesterol was lowest in Nova (5.6%), followed by Madhusudan (6.2%) and Ananda (6.4%). It was highest in Gowardhan (8.5%). In the probiotic category, Nestle (4.4%) had lower cholesterol than Mother Dairy (4.7%).
Carbohydrates are a source of energy and expected to be higher in curd. Lactose is the major carbohydrate fraction in milk.
Carbohydrate amount in the tested brands ranged from 4.6% to 6.5%. It was highest in Nestle a+ Actiplus, Mother Dairy Advanced Probiotic and Paras.
The liquid floating on top of the curd is the whey. Whey is the separated water from curd which is not desirable.In our interpretation of the results, we have considered less whey quantity as better.
Whey quantity was less than 1.0 ml in Britannia, Madhusudan, Nova, Patanjali and Amul Masti. It was highest in Paras (11.2 ml).
As per the national standards, phosphatase enzyme shall be negative in curd. The absence of phosphatase indicates that the milk has been adequately pasteurised.
All brands passed the phosphatase test.
The author is Managing Editor of Consumer Voice and former Dean and head of Commerce, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi
Disclaimer: This study was conducted independently by Consumer Voice