Researchers Explore New Fermentation Combos for Multifunctional Solutions

As fermented products like kombucha tea and Korean kimchi continue to trend with consumers, fermentation researchers are investigating creative combinations of cultures and substrates to produce new attributes in foods and beverages. 

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By Elizabeth Brewster

As fermented products like kombucha tea and Korean kimchi continue to trend with consumers, fermentation researchers are investigating creative combinations of cultures and substrates to produce new attributes in foods and beverages.

“Fermented food products have been included as top food trends over the past few years,” reports Jerome Diaz, Wageningen University and Research, at IFT20 session 239. Fermented snack foods, alternative meats, beverages, and dairy products all are gaining interest thanks to the natural gut health benefits associated with fermentation, he says.

The CULTURED consortium—a 2018–2020 public/private partnership project that includes Wageningen University and Research, TNO independent research organization, and nine industrial partners—is exploring new combinations of cultures and substrates that can lead to unique attributes in areas such as nutrition, sustainability, texture, and preservation. In 2021, a new consortium called INFORMED will work on using food informatics, such as machine learning and predictive analytics, to develop innovative clean label solutions that can improve food products through the application of fermentation.

herbs and spicesOne area being explored by CULTURED researchers is using nontraditional substrates such as herbs and spices to develop a natural fermented antimicrobial with multiple functionalities such as color preservation, rancidity prevention, microbial preservation, antioxidants, and taste. Inherent antimicrobial activity of herbs and spices is the major challenge, says Andrew Lee, Kalsec, because even the fermenting microorganisms could be inhibited.

To determine functionality in new fermentations, researchers are using smart screening methods that screen for functionality indicators if possible, rather than screening for the whole functionality, says Paulo Boer, TNO. Researchers first identify the indicator compounds for the desired functionality, and then develop the most efficient detection methods for the indicator. After designing the different fermentations, they smart screen for the intended functionality.

For example, researchers looking to produce natural sweet compounds by means of fermentation used a sweet receptor–based assay instead of measuring individual compounds with a known sweet sensation. A compound recognized by the sweet receptor resulted in a chemiluminescent signal, indicating sweetness.

For more insights into fermentation technology, view this session in the SHIFT20 on-demand library.

Registration for SHIFT20 provides access to the on-demand library of sessions for a full year.

Kelly Hensel

Senior Digital Editor, IFT

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