Fermented Ingredients Grow in Popularity and Potential

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The quest for health, sustainability and novel tastes has more consumers seeking out products that contain fermented ingredients


KerryDigest Fast Facts:

  • Consumers are looking for products that offer health benefits and view fermented products as natural, authentic and containing the desired health properties.
  • To satisfy consumer demand, an ever-growing number of food and beverage products are being developed or reformulated without the use of traditional preservatives, with fermented ingredients filling part of the void.
  • Consumers are also looking for exciting new flavours and are turning to exotic flavours derived from fermentation to explore the world through their taste buds.
  • Fermentation will have an even more significant influence on the future of our food, due it its role in producing next generation proteins in a more sustainable way.
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KerryDigest Full Scoop:

From kombucha and clean label food to deep savoury taste and beverage preservation, fermentation is having a moment amongst consumers, making it an increasingly compelling consideration for food producers. To learn more about the current popularity of fermented ingredients and their future potential I sat down with Jacques Georis, Global Fermentation Science Director for Kerry Research and Development and Applied Health and Nutrition.

To hear more from Jacques and other fermentation experts, register for the upcoming Kerry Health and Nutrition Institute Webinar, “Fermentation: Will the past power the future?

Melissa Sheridan: What is fermentation?
Jacques Georis: Fermentation is a trusted processing method that has been used by mankind for centuries. Fermentation produces, transforms and preserves food by utilizing the growth and metabolic activity of micro-organisms. Today, many different industries rely on fermentation by using bacteria, yeasts or fungi to transform raw materials and substrates into valuable products, including the chemical, pharmaceutical and food industries.

Melissa: What is driving the current high levels of consumer interest in fermentation?
Jacques: Fermentation, despite being the oldest “biotechnology”, is currently experiencing a revival in popularity amongst the public due to an increasing awareness of the health benefits fermented food offers, their ability to naturally protect food as well as their ability to create a unique taste profile.

The current high levels of consumer interest in fermentation is driven by a number of factors:

First, consumers are looking for products offering health benefits and they see fermented products as natural, authentic and containing the desired health boosting benefits. As a result, food and beverages such as kimchi and kombucha, which have been produced for centuries via natural fermentation, are experiencing newfound growth. This consumer excitement is based on the understanding that eating fermented foods has a positive impact on our gut microbiome, the microbes that live in our intestines. Consumers are increasingly aware of the importance of good gut health and its connection to many other aspects of health, including improved immune function, as well as its role as a “second brain” that communicates directly with the central nervous system. They are seeking out products that improve their health, and fermented derived products such as those containing probiotics deliver on this. This aligns with findings that 62% of consumers have become more conscious about their health in the wake of COVID-19, according to FMCG Gurus.

Second, consumers are looking for natural products and fermentation is a natural process. Fermentation derived ingredients have historically been used to preserve food and to supporting food processing (as enzymes) because they have the ability to replace synthetic chemicals and preservatives, delivering on the consumer need for cleaner labels. This consumer demand for more natural products shows no signs of slowing down. It could even be argued that the most important clean label consumer desire globally is a call for no artificial additives or preservatives. In 2020, 14% of all food and beverage launches globally had the claim “no additives” or “no preservatives”, according to Innova Market Research.

And third, consumers are looking for exciting new flavours and are exploring the world through their taste buds in order to seek adventure. For example, consumers are seeking authentic savoury taste experiences such as savoury snacks and plant-based meats and meals with umami and kokumi nuances. Balancing umami and kokumi wouldn't be possible without an in-depth understanding of fermentation, and within that yeast extracts, which are one of the more common sources of umami in cooking. The naturally present amino acids in yeast extracts appeals to the taste receptors in a natural way to boost taste. Because of the many varieties of fermented ingredients and yeast extracts, such products can add a kaleidoscopic array of flavours to foods and beverages, bringing new exotic tastes to consumers around the globe.

Melissa: What are some of the new innovations in fermentation?
Jacques:
The whole area of fermentation is currently thriving. The vast diversity of microorganisms available to us along with advances in fermentation science are giving us the potential to enable the programming of microorganisms to produce almost any complex organic molecule. The science continues to evolve and with the arrival of new tools, large scale fermentation is becoming much more efficient and less time consuming.

There are different ways to categorise fermentation. This could be based on technical approach, such as batch fermentation, fed-batch fermentation and continuous fermentation. It can also be categorised by purpose: traditional fermentation, biomass fermentation and precision fermentation. Any of those main fermentation approaches offer significant innovation potential and product development and process science perspective by leveraging emerging technologies.

“Traditional fermentation” is most of us are familiar with. It involves cultivating microbial organisms to produce a final food/beverage product, modifying its taste, texture and nutritional profile. This is how we make beer, cheese, komucha and many other fermented food.

“Biomass fermentation” refers to the cultivation of microbial organisms with the purpose of obtaining as much as possible of the microorganism mass to use as food, such as alternative protein. The most well-known example being Quorn’s meat free mycoprotein, which is produced by fermenting a fungus.

“Precision fermentation” utilizes the metabolism of micro-organisms to program microbes to act as “cell factories” for specific compounds of interest. This technique enables us to produce metabolites typically produced by mammals or plants in a much more sustainable and economical way, such as cultured meat and alternative proteins. The most well-known example is the production of animal-free rennet or plant hemoglobin, which can be produced by fermenting a yeast.

Fermentation will have an even more significant influence on the future of food as it has the power to produce many food types we obtain typically from a farming-based system, but in a much more sustainable way.fermented bakery product

Melissa: What else is on the horizon for fermentation?
Jacques:
We believe as a process, fermentation will have an even more significant influence on the future of our food as it has the power to produce many food types we obtain typically from a farming-based system, but in a much more sustainable way. Alternative proteins, including cell-based meat, can be produced by fermentation and they have the ability to significantly improve our food system, mitigate negative impacts on the environment and improve overall health. It can take years to grow plants and raise animals, but amazingly, microbes have the potential to double their biomass in only a few hours, making them an exciting and sustainable solution. Combining molecular biology, systems biology, membrane science, biophysics, chemical and biological engineering, control engineering and evolutionary biology will be a driver for those new horizons for fermentation.

To learn more about Kerry’s fermentation derived ingredients and scientific expertise, contact us. To hear more from Jacques and other fermentation experts, register for the upcoming Kerry Health and Nutrition Institute Webinar, “Fermentation: Will the past power the future?

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