Although most people associate fermentation with yogurt and probiotic products, it is important to understand the different application of fermentative processes within food production and application. As fermentation is now being associated with food innovation, Aline de Santa Izabel, Founder at YOGUT ME join me for this podcast episode to discuss the trendy topic of fermentation as a platform for the delivery of functional ingredients.
Tune in to hear more about:
- the role fermentation plays in food or ingredient application
- the drive for fermentation biotechnology applications
- key insights or considerations industry players should keep in mind when exploring the use of fermentation delivery for their products
- the sustainability and opportunities behind fermentation as a platform of delivery of functional ingredients
- the linking of fermentation and the personalised nutrition markets
- the roles start-ups play to enable and create new innovative delivery methods for probiotic products
- bonus Linkedin question
Hanno Cappon, Chief Technology Officer at the H&H group, Harini Venkataraman, Analyst Agrifood & Health at Lux Research and Aline de Santa Izabel, Founder at YOGUT ME will discuss Innovative forms for gut & immune health products delivery in a panel discussion as part of our Vitafoods insights virtual expo this may 11.
Vitafoods Insights: [00:00:00] Welcome to the Vitafoods Insights podcast. Join us as we explore the latest science and innovation, helping the global health and nutrition industry connect, develop and progress. Today's host is Natalia Franca Rocha, content producer.
Natalia: [00:00:24] Hello, and welcome back to another Vitafoods Insights podcast. I'm Natalia Franca Rocha, and I'll be exploring the topic of fermentation as a platform for the delivery of functional ingredients. As part of our Vitafoods Insights Virtual Expo this May 11. I'll be moderating a panel discussion about innovative forms for the gut and immune health product delivery. Joining me will be Hanno Cappon, Chief Technology Officer at the H&H group, Harini Venkataraman, Analyst Agrifood & Health at Lux Research and Aline de Santa Izabel, Founder at YOGUT ME. Today, I'm joined by Aline, who is a microbiologist, bioengineer and food tech entrepreneur with extensive experience in product development and innovation. She's a leading voice within personalized nutrition and gut health in Sweden. As the founder of YOGUT ME, Aline combined her passions for fermentation, food, innovation, microbiome science, impact, and sustainability. She has also founded Synbiotic kitchen, an educational platform that uses fermentation as a tool to promote knowledge about the gut health and the microbiome. Thanks for joining me, Aline.
Aline: [00:01:30] Thank you Natalia for the invitation! It’s a pleasure to be here talking about such an exciting and trendy topic as fermentation, and what is “bubbling” in this space.
Natalia: [00:01:39] To get our listeners up to date with the whole concept of fermentation, can you tell us more about the role fermentation plays in food or ingredient application?
Aline: [00:01:48] First, just to get everyone on the same page, let’s go back to the basics and talk about what fermentation is: In general terms, fermentation is a metabolic process that produces chemical changes in organic substrates, like those found in food, through the action of enzymes. There are different applications of fermentative processes in food production, where fermentation is related to any process in which the activity of microorganisms creates a desirable change to a food or beverage or results in the production of food and nutritional compounds. There are different types of processes mediated by different types of microorganisms which creates different types of fermented food products and ingredients with different properties. Even though fermentation is very trendy these days (being one of the biggest trends in the food & beverage industry) and fermentation is related to the creation of food innovations like ours at YOGUT ME, fermentation is not a new technology or something new within food and food processing. It's interesting to remember that we humans have used fermentation as a method to produce and preserve foods and beverages since the Neolithic age. And in relation to the role that fermentation plays in food and ingredient applications, first, we can say that fermentation can be used to create unique flavors and textures, and also to alter the nutritional properties and microbiological compositions in foods, with the potential of providing health benefits. Today, processes like traditional fermentation, biomass fermentation, and precision fermentation are used to produce different types of food products and nutritional compounds, including, for example, fermented foods that we love and that are part of our daily diets globally like yogurts (we love yogurt, right?), to protein substitutes including tempeh which is a fermented food also produced by traditional fermentation like yogurt, but through a different process with different microorganisms. Tempeh has been gaining a lot of popularity in the latest years, as well as mycoproteins which are protein-rich biomass that is produced by biomass fermentation, which are becoming more and more used as a food ingredient. Another application of fermentation in food and ingredients delivery is related to the production of compounds that can be used in food manufacturing like enzymes, amino acids, and proteins, vitamins, flavourings, pigments, and other compounds that can be produced through precision fermentation processes, which use microbial hosts as cell factories for producing those specific functional ingredients in high amounts. Nowadays when the topic of fermentation comes up in relation to food innovation, it's either related to precision fermentation and the advances that it has been creating in the alternative protein space, or to the potential benefits of traditionally fermented foods to gut health. I can say that our main focus at the moment at YOGUT ME is the angle in relation to gut health and microbiome, which I personally find extremely promising and fascinating!
Natalia: [00:05:00] Most people do associate fermentation with this concept where microorganisms do break down carbohydrate molecules without oxygen available, so under anaerobic conditions. And yogurt production is, I would say, definitely a primary example of fermentation most people are familiar with. So, thank you so much for taking this a step back and putting us on the same page about what it means when we talk about fermentation and going to more detail about the basics of fermentation. It is interesting to see how fermentation plays such a diverse role in the food and ingredient applications, but when thinking of the gut and immune health, I was wondering, why is it that fermentation biotechnology applications are so trendy these days, as you've mentioned before? Is this drive coming from the consumers themselves or the industry trying to innovate on delivery formats?
Aline: [00:05:53] Well, I believe that the link between fermentation, gut, and immune health is based on the correlation that is being created around the consumption of live fermented probiotic foods and gut health. In recent years, fermented slash probiotic foods have received considerable attention among health-conscious consumers, who are aware that we do host trillions of microbes, communities of microbes, within and outside our body, mainly in our guts, which are directly connected with different aspects of our health and wellbeing, including our physical and emotional health. If we look into science, Research suggests that over 70 percent of our body's immune system resides in our Gl tract, and scientific advances in understanding the connection of gut health with specific areas like the gut-brain axis and even gut-lung axis in health and respiratory diseases, like COVID, are becoming more and more popular among the consumers, who understand the central role that the gut has in our overall health and that sees fermented foods as a great way to keep a balanced gut and manage their overall health. A large number of consumers believe fermented foods are probiotic foods, due to the presence of live active bacteria, BUT it's VERY important to make it clear that not all fermented foods are created equal and that not all live active bacteria are probiotics. So it's very important to define what is a fermented food and in some cases, differentiate or establish standards for which attributes fermented foods need to have to be considered as a probiotic food. Earlier this year an important step was taken in this area when a group of leading scientists created the first international consensus definition of fermented foods, which according to them are "foods made through desired microbial growth and enzymatic conversions of food components". In their publication, the authors highlighted the difference between probiotics and the live microbes associated with fermented foods, reminding that the word 'probiotic', only applies in special cases where the fermented food (1) retains live microorganisms at the time of consumption, and (2) only if and when the specific microorganisms are defined and shown to provide a health benefit, as demonstrated in scientific studies. So, in relation to the drivers, I believe that it comes primarily from the consumers of today, who are more educated and health-conscious. On the other hand, the industry is looking for new ways to fit the growing demands of those consumers with novel food innovations and new ways to deliver gut and immune health ingredients including probiotics, prebiotics, peptides, and other ingredients.
Vitafoods Insights: [00:08:43] Since this podcast is related to the Vitafoods Virtual Expo, it's the perfect time to interrupt and remind you that you can find all the information you need about the event at vitafoodsglobal.com/insights
Natalia: [00:08:58] It can be confusing for consumers to differentiate all of these diverse types of fermented foods available in the markets. As their knowledge and awareness towards probiotics and fermented foods continue to increase, it is definitely great to hear about the first international consensus definition of fermented foods that you've just highlighted. Now, focusing on our listeners and all of the industry players, what are the key insights or considerations that they should keep in mind when exploring the use of fermentation delivery for their product?
Aline: [00:09:34] Ok, So, first I would like to say that I do believe that fermentation can be a great solution for targeted ingredient delivery, and this belief is the base of our development at YOGUT ME. Even though it's a very exciting and promising area, in general, there are different factors that should be considered when using fermentation as a delivery method for functional ingredients. First, one needs to make sure of the stability and functionality of the ingredients during the fermentation process and in the final fermented food matrices, ensuring that the ingredient can be delivered in the chosen method. In relation to probiotics, for example, it’s well known that there is a considerable challenge in delivering fresh and active probiotics in mass-manufactured food products that the industry is able to offer today. Remember that some fermented foods are “live foods” and that you need to be sure of the integrity and delivery of the ingredients in effective concentrations in efficient formulations. Transparency is also very important, with respect to the claims using ingredients that are scientifically validated. And talking about science, there is a need for more scientific validation in regard to the potential health benefits of the consumption of fermented foods. Again, not all fermented foods are probiotics or provide health benefits for gut health, so I would not recommend industry players to embark on the fermented foods trend without making a clear proposition why your ingredients could match fermented foods' formulations and make sense in this delivery method.
Natalia: [00:11:08] I'm sure it's also really important that their value proposition comes across in a clear manner for the consumers. And now thinking about sustainability, I'm sure our audience is just as interested as I am to understand more about how fermentation as a platform of delivery of functional ingredients is, or it can be more sustainable. And also, how does this create more opportunities for the food and ingredients industry?
Aline: [00:11:35] That's a very good and important question! Sustainability is a very important aspect and it should be at the core of all product development and in businesses these days. There are different angles that can be connected to foods, in special fermented foods produced in ready-to-consume fermentation. From those, I would like to highlight the particular health and the socio-environmental aspects related to sustainability. So in relation to health, fermentation can be used as a process for the production of foods that can contribute to better health and wellbeing, which is one of the 17 global sustainable development goals, since fermentation is a natural process that can produce clean foods with improved nutritional profiles requiring fewer additives. There is also the fact that it can deliver live active bacteria and other bioactive compounds as products of fermentation. And fermentation can be used to improve shelf life with a natural preservation process and contribute to sustainable communities powered by responsible production and consumption. So, the decentralization of food production and processing enabled by, for example, home fermentation processes, can reduce food waste, and the need for unsustainable individual plastic packaging as in the case for yogurts and dairy-free alternatives. It can also represent a great opportunity in new delivery methods and formats, including more possibilities for, for instance, personalization and the creation of personalized foods on demand through targeted ingredients delivery in bioprocess-based systems allowing multi-level customization and the creation of naturally delicious foods.
Natalia: [00:13:12] It's so insightful to learn how fermentation can actually contribute to sustainability and sustainable communities, and how we can even reduce the needs for unsustainable plastics used for packaging. It does sounds like fermentation also allows for a more targeted methodology of ingredient delivery, which actually brings me to my next question of whether fermentation could also create demands for the personalized nutrition market?
Aline: [00:13:36] Definitely! Personalisation is a big trend in different industries, and personalized nutrition is an exciting area that is growing in terms of consumer demands, being accelerated by different enabling technologies and scientific findings, and I do personally believe that fermentation can be a great enabler for the creation of healthy personalized food products. For instance, we at YOGUT ME are creating an innovative way to deliver functional ingredients in delicious and personalized fermented food products produced on demand, in a decentralized way directly at the consumer's home, starting with functional yogurts and alternatives. And the concept came from the perception of the growing market need and consumer demand for customized “better for me” foods and diets. In regard to personalization, it's a challenging process still, and there are different parameters and aspects which can be customized in order to match certain consumer’s demands and preferences, from the experience, taste, and consistency to the nutritional composition. And when we talk about fermentation and fermented foods, of course, live active bacteria and probiotics are components of interest in terms of personalization. We know that there are challenges and limitations related to applications of probiotic strains, which can be overcome by innovative decentralized systems enabling home fermentation, for instance, which have a great potential to deliver this kind of ingredients successfully.
Natalia: [00:15:02] Although there seems to be so many challenges yet to be overcome, it does sounds that combining fermentation and personalized nutrition can be very exciting as a next step for the nutraceutical industry. I also wanted to ask you as the founder of the biotech startup YOGUT ME, what would you say are the roles of startups to enable and also to create new innovative delivery methods for probiotic product?
Aline: [00:15:28] In my opinion startups have a huge role and a huge opportunity to push development forward and develop innovations in this area, accelerating the technology transfer and application of novel scientific findings into new products. We are seeing a great number of new disruptive ventures using fermentation technology for the production of novel foods and food ingredients, and with our startup, we saw a great opportunity in investing in the delivery aspect of probiotics and other functional ingredients which can be delivered and produced in small scale fermentation processes. So there is undoubtedly an important role that we, as startups and startup founders, can play in the future of food. But I also believe that in order for those innovations to gain scale and create a real impact and change in our food system, collaborations will be crucial, creating innovations ecosystems that will bring together different parties, partners, and enablers which can help startups like us, for example, to scale up our technology, or to have access to a larger consumer group, benefit of their networks, reputations, and capacities. On the other hand, by collaborating with startups, companies can explore new business areas and increase their innovation potential. So it's a win-win. So collaborations between incumbent industrial companies and startups are key for the long-term success of both parties, and for a better future overall.
Natalia: [00:16:55] Indeed collaboration and innovation. That seems to be this win-win situation that you've just mentioned. Well, it has been really fun to talk to you about fermentation as this platform for the delivery of functional ingredients. And before we wrap up, we also had a question for you coming directly from LinkedIn, Maria Faleeva asked:
Maria: [00:17:15] Hi there. I was just wondering, do you all people benefit from the same type of gut bacteria or does it depend on your age or your background or other environmental factors?
Aline: [00:17:27] That’s a very interesting question from the audience, thank you! So, do people benefit from the same type of probiotics? Mm, possibly yes at a certain level. Science has shown that we do have very unique guts, so there is no gut like another. And that different factors like age, geographical location, lifestyle factors including diet, directly influence the composition and function of our gut microbiome, so besides our intrapersonal variation during our lifespan there are remarkable differences in gut microbiome composition within populations. So, there is an emerging need for a personalized approach, and in this context, targeted probiotics are becoming more and more needed. Not all probiotic strains are created equal nor will they deliver the same benefits, and unfortunately, there is not a “one size fits all solution” probiotic, so it is a real challenge to provide generic probiotics for unique guts. So how can we provide real benefits for unique guts now and in the future? Today it's possible to find different strains for specific applications linked to specific conditions and health benefits, for example, specific probiotic strains related to women's health, digestive health, mental health, performance, immunity, infants among others, so there is a ”clusterization” of probiotic strains and I believe that in the future, once we master the process of personalization, using different types of technologies to access real-time biometric data and other contextual data, we will better understand our bodies, our metabolic status, and needs, and we will be able to customize better and provide better products for the consumers. In relation to probiotics, new strains will be possibly characterized and made available by new delivery methods, overcoming today's delivery challenges. So, in relation to personalization, new methods and technologies will be needed not only to retrieve, analyse and understand data but also to translate this data into personalized, targeted products in an agile way. And this is actually one of our ambitions with YOGUT ME, to contribute with better, personalized foods for our unique guts and unique selves.
Natalia: [00:19:44] Thanks for sharing your insights with our audience today. And I'm sure it's always beneficial for our listeners to keep up today with innovative forms of product delivery within the health sector. So again, thank you so much for joining me today. And I look forward to catching up again on May 11 for our Vitafoods Insights Virtual Expo panel discussion about innovative forms for gut and immune health products delivery. In our website, you can find more information about the virtual expo and register for free.