Fooditive's Guide to Fermentation

Updated: Apr 14

For thousands of years, humans have used fermentation to preserve and prepare food, brew beer and liquor, and create lifesaving medicines. We have taken this traditional method and have used this as the backbone of Fooditive’s process for creating functional, plant-based ingredients.

Fermentation involves micro-organisms changing from carbohydrates into a new form, typically alcohol. Food items such as pickles, kimchi, and yoghurt are made through fermentation.

During the process of fermentation, a bioreactor - a simple, stainless-steel tank - is needed, with moving paddles that control the speed of the process and sensors that monitor the process and determine what is needed. Previously, pH strips were used to determine if it was ready but now, these sensors can show this. The tank needs to be carefully sterilised between each use to ensure that cross-contamination does not happen.

In Fooditive’s production, the yeast or strain is fed with sugar, antifoam agents, raw materials and a lot of water. If this yeast is not fed correctly, it will not be activated. Once everything is eaten, the product is ready to go under a process of filtration to clean it. In order to get a powder, drying/crystallisation occurs. Fermentation itself can be quite complex, but we know that there is a high demand for nutritious, tasty and functional ingredients.

The history of fermentation

Fermentation is an ancient technique that dates back to over 10000 BCE. The Old Egyptians discovered the process by accident and began using it for medical purposes and bread production. Around the same time, the Ancient Chinese started to ferment rice, fruits, and honey to make alcohol.

In the 1800s, French scientist Louis Pasteur, using fermentation as a base, developed a method of removing bacteria and extending the shelf life of food productions called pasteurisation. His work was very important in the development of vaccinations for cholera, anthrax, and rabies.

Fermentation has been instrumental in the pharmaceutical industry, especially in creating the Pfizer vaccine for Covid-19. This process has become an essential part of our society, and we are excited to explore the endless possibilities.

What are the different types of fermentation?

Traditional fermentation, as explained above, takes raw materials and turns it into an alcohol or an acid. This has been used for alcohol and food production. In the production of certain types of alcohol, an additional step of distillation is needed.

Continuous fermentation, used in a few of Fooditive’s processes, works in a slightly different way in that micro-organisms are transformed into a completely different outcome, such as sweeteners, or other additives. Fooditive Sweetener ® Keto-Fructose is made through this process.

Precision fermentation, on the other hand, is easily controllable but rarely used in the food industry because it can be complex and expensive. This method is typically used when creating vaccines. Instead of transforming a micro-organism into an additive, a strain can be designed to become anything, such as a dairy alternative. Fooditive Vegan Casein is created through precision fermentation.

Why is it important?

This process is extremely essential for many aspects of our lives. It has allowed us to manufacture bread and alcohol on a large scale, and to keep food fresh for longer. Without fermentation, we would not have developed penicillin which treats pneumonia, strep throat and a variety of other bacterial infections.

What are the future potentials of fermentation?

Since it is used in the pharmaceutical industry, we could potentially create vaccines and treatments for a wide range of diseases and illnesses. Precision fermentation supports biotechnology so the possibilities are endless. Our vegan casein already solves the issue of factory farming, antibiotics and hormones, and lactose intolerance that is associated with cow's milk.

Fermentation at home

Try making your own kefir: a fermented milk drink that is beneficial to gut health.

Have you ever experimented with fermentation at home? Share your experiences in the comments!

- The Fooditive Family.

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