Major expansion is underway at Glanbia Ingredients Inc.'s whey processing facility in Gooding, Idaho, as the firm seeks to satisfy growing demand for the protein derivative lactoferrin.

The plant has extracted lactoferrin from cheese whey since 1997, one of only a handful of facilities worldwide to do so. Demand for the bioactive milk protein got a boost last fall when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of lactoferrin as an antimicrobial treatment in meat processing.

Lactoferrin promotes intestinal health and immune-system enhancement and is used widely in the natural food products segment. Bodybuilders and baby-formula makers are incorporating it into the daily diet, either as a dietary supplement or in formulated foods. It can also be consumed directly. Glanbia has tapped into the nutraceutical sector with its Bioferrin branded lactoferrin.

The $2.5 million lactoferrin project is targeted for completion in July. The Gooding facility also is involved in milk calcium production and whey protein concentrate drying.