Fermentation is driving innovation in food
How start-ups are harnessing the power of fermentation to create novel, innovative food products that tap into the growing market for green, clean-label food.
People have fermented food for centuries, using microorganisms like bacteria, yeast, and fungal moulds to enhance the flavours in our food and keep ingredients from spoiling. Much of our modern diet, including yogurt, cheese, bread, beer and wine, would not exist without fermentation. Now, however, several food start-ups are harnessing this power to create novel, innovative food products that tap into the growing market for green, clean-label food.
Start-ups are marketing the health benefits of lacto-fermented vegetables
Many regional cuisines use pickling to preserve surplus vegetables for later in the year. Submerging these vegetables in salty brine kills off harmful bacteria but allows others to grow, like lactobacilli, which produces the lactic acid that gives German sauerkraut its distinctively sour pickle taste.
With more and more consumers demanding healthy food, start-ups across the world are marketing raw pickled vegetables as a tasty way to consume probiotic lactobacilli and promote gut health. Companies like London Fermentary in England, The Cultured Food Company in Ireland, Green Table Foods in Canada and Cultured Heritage Foods in the U.S. are all producing their own versions of pickled beets, sauerkraut, carrots and even kimchee, a spicy Korean cabbage dish known for its health benefits.
While smaller companies use traditional batch processing with barrels and ceramic crocks, the true potential of fermentation spans far beyond traditional cooking methods—reaching the cutting-edge intersection of microbiology and genetic engineering.
High-tech food companies are using fermentation to create novel ingredients and food substitutes
Many companies are now culturing and manipulating microbes to develop novel ingredients and food substitutes. Indeed The Good Food Institute has “identified 68 companies using fermentation to produce or support animal-free formulations of meat, eggs, and dairy or their functional equivalents”. In the U.S., for example, the innovative firm MycoTechnology is growing Shiitake mushroom mycelium at an industrial scale to produce clean-label vegan proteins, as well as using their fermentation system to nurture non-GMO bitter-blocker ingredients.
Other U.S. companies are going further and genetically engineering microorganisms to produce the animal proteins used in creating many plant-based, vegan foods. Clara Foods in California use industrial fermenters to bioengineer yeast and manufacture the protein-rich lysozymes found in the whites of hen eggs; Perfect Day, another San Francisco start-up, have used the same process to make casein, whey and the proteins found in dairy. While both companies describe their production process as “cellular agriculture” for its use of yeast cells, rather than animals, it ultimately still relies on the basic principles of fermentation. As vegan and vegetarian diets increase in popularity, the potential for development in the field of fermentation and microbiology only grows by the day.
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Credits and references
Author – Isobel Smith – Strategic Allies Ltd
Image by edwina_mc fromPixabay