A microbe discovered in a volcanic hot spring gobbles up carbon dioxide “astonishingly quickly”, according to the scientists who found it.
The researchers hope to utilise microbes that have naturally evolved to absorb CO2 as an efficient way of removing the greenhouse gas from the atmosphere. Ending the burning of fossil fuels is critical in ending the climate crisis, but most scientists agree CO2 will also need to be sucked from the air to limit future damage.
The new microbe, a cyanobacterium, was discovered in September in volcanic seeps near the Italian island of Vulcano, where the water contains high levels of CO2. The researchers said the bug turned CO2 into biomass faster than any other known cyanobacteria.
In February the team also explored hot springs in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, US, where levels of CO2 are even higher. Those results are now being analysed. The researchers said all their data on microbes would be published and made available to other scientists as a database that pairs DNA sequences with banked samples of the bacteria.
Dr Braden Tierney, at Weill Cornell Medical College and Harvard Medical School, said: “Our lead collaborator at Harvard isolated this organism that grew astonishingly quickly, compared to other cyanobacteria.”
“The project takes advantage of 3.6bn years of microbial evolution,” he said. “The nice thing about microbes is that they are self-assembling machines. You don’t have that with a lot of the chemical approaches [to CO2 capture].”
The new microbe had another unusual property, Tierney said: it sinks in water, which could help collect the CO2 it absorbs.
But the microbe was not a silver bullet, Tierney said. “There really isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to climate change and carbon capture. There will be circumstances where the tree is going to outperform microbes or fungi. But there will also be circumstances where you really want a fast-growing aquatic microbe that sinks,” he said. That might include large, carbon-capturing ponds, he said. The microbe might also be able to produce a useful bioplastic.
The project was funded by the biotechnology company Seed Health, which has also employed Tierney as a consultant. The company already sells probiotics for human health, has developed a probiotic for bees and is researching the use of microbial enzymes to break down plastics.
“Seed Health was founded on the belief that by unlocking the immense potential of the microbiome, we possess the power to make transformative strides in human and planetary health,” said its co-chief executive Raja Dhir. “Our work with Dr Tierney is exactly in line with that mission and may help to unlock new models [for] carbon capture.”
The idea of using bacteria to capture CO2, potentially enhanced by genetic engineering, is an active research area. A recent review suggested that bacteria could produce useful chemicals, as well as trapping CO2, saying: “Using modified bacteria to manage CO2 has the added benefit of generating useful industrial byproducts like biofuels, pharmaceutical compounds, and bioplastics.”
The US company LanzaTech already uses bacteria to convert CO2 into commercial fuels and chemicals. The UK-based CyanoCapture, backed by Shell and Elon Musk, is harnessing cyanobacteria to produce biomass and biological oils. Numerous companies are working on using algae to produce biofuels, although ExxonMobil ended its research on this recently.
When biofuels are burned, the CO2 captured returns to the atmosphere. But research at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the US is exploring the use of bacteria to precipitate carbon-capturing minerals from seawater, locking up the CO2. This work is based on a catalyst enzyme that is also being examined by scientists in China, who are looking at hot vents on the ocean floor for heat-resistant enzymes.
Bacteria found in caves have also been shown to turn CO2 into minerals. Other scientists are aiming to use bacteria to cut CO2 emissions from cement production.
Over the past few years, the Good Food Institute (GFI) has created dedicated reports for each category, or “pillar,” in the alternative protein market: plant-based, precision fermentation, and cultivated meat/seafood. This week, however, GFI teased what it sees as a possible fourth pillar for alternative protein pillar in the form of molecular farming.
Molecular farming, which GFI refers to as “plant molecular farming,” is a concept that readers of The Spoon may be familiar with. It involves producing animal protein using seed crops. Genetic engineers introduce animal DNA directly into the seeds, transforming the resulting crops into protein factories. Once the genetically engineered seeds are planted, traditional farming management techniques can be employed to grow the crops until they are ready for harvest.
The technique has been picking up momentum in recent years, in part because of the cost savings it promises to introduce. After all, there really is no more efficient way to produce calories for human consumption than by sprouting them from the ground, and by transforming plants into small bioreactors, molecular farming companies can take advantage of the scalability and cost-effectiveness of leveraging traditional row crops as protein production engines.
The addition of a fourth pillar to the alternative protein market comes as molecular farming is gaining traction. Earlier this month, molecular farming pioneer Moolec announced that their safflower plants had been cleared by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the USDA, posing no greater plant pest risk than non-genetically engineered safflower plants. Through its former parent company, Bioceres, Moolec has the capability to produce proteins such as chymosin (an enzyme used in cheese) using safflower plants. The USDA approval comes just months after Moolec became the first molecular farming company to go public in early 2023 through a SPAC vehicle offering.
Bioengineered ingredients specialist Motif Foodworks announced earlier this year that they were diversifying into molecular farming through a partnership with IngredientWerks. IngredientWerks will help Motif produce its Hemami ingredient, an ingredient identical to myoglobin in beef, through corn crops. Previously, Motif had been using precision fermentation techniques to produce Hemami.
According to GFI, there are currently 12 companies worldwide using this technology to grow various products, including casein and lactoferrin (Forte Protein and Greenovation Protein), animal-free dairy proteins for cheese, ice cream, and yogurt (Miruku, Mozza, and Nobell Foods), growth factors for cultivated meat (Tiamet Sciences and Bright Biotech), and more.
Interestingly, GFI notes that there are currently no alternative protein startups in the Asia-Pacific region using molecular farming, with only one startup (Miruku) in the broader APAC region (New Zealand). Given the focus on alternative proteins in many Asian countries, this situation is likely to change soon (one can almost hear the frantic typing of PowerPoint pitch decks while reading this post).
You can find the GFI state of the industry reports – including the molecular farming fact sheet – on this page free for download after registration.
Packaging reductions that do not create additional food waste equals more environmentally friendly food packaging. The desire to reduce packaging remains strong, and three motivating factors can prompt the packaging industry to take additional action for sustainability.
Legislation such as the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive, which goes into effect in 2024, sets waste reduction targets of 5% to 15% by 2040. According to Article 9, packaging must be “scaled down” to the bare minimum required to ensure the product’s functionality and safety. In addition, more brands will be more inclined to focus on reduction as more states and countries adopt Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) because they will be required to share the cost of packaging disposal.
Calvin Lahkan says it best “It’s important to remember that Reduce, Reuse, Recycle is not just a catchy phrase, but the order in which we are supposed to do things.”
Higher packaging materials prices, climate-related disasters, and factory slowdowns are prompting brands to stretch packaging materials further. Part of the reduction process is rethinking the purpose of packaging. This is critical because both consumers and the supply chain have changed dramatically, and new product launch timelines are frequently too short to allow for optimization. Packaging is being reduced once more through light-weighting and redesign.
Three packaging lightweighting examples.
1. Corrugated boxes have led the way in terms of source reductions of materials. Now corrugated box manufacturers are replacing a ply of 35-pound paper with a 26-pound paper ply.
2. PET bottle lightweighting focuses on increasing crystallinity by fine-tuning processing speeds, temperatures, extension ratios, molecular weight, molecular weight distribution, and other processing changes. Amcor’s Quantum technology reduces the finish area — which must be strong enough to withstand the high seal torques — resulting in 13% less PET in a 12-ounce bottle. Structural additives are also used to light-weight packaging.
For example, adding starch into pouches reduces the amount of packaging by 25%, and a paper bottle supports a thin bio-based polyethylene furanoate (PEF) liner as with Carlsberg.
3. Film density decreases by 35% when a more advanced cavitation agent creates void spaces within polyethylene film. Void Technologie’s 0.1-10 micrometer-sized air voids diffract light, producing an opaque film that reduces light-induced oxidation. In addition, the technology allows for quick sink/float separation, which is used in recycling sorting.
Three packaging redesign examples.
1. Right-sizing corrugated cases for ecommerce can reduce dimensional weight (the ratio of shipping box size to total package weight), resulting in fewer trucks on the road, lower fuel use and emissions, and lower transit costs. High-speed cameras and artificial intelligence are used by systems such as Ranpak’s EVO! Cut-it to create 15 customized boxes per minute, ensuring each case is the correct size.
2. Replacement as a tactic is exemplified by RapidRoperPlus, which replaces thick pallet corner posts with two layers of prestretched film reinforced with laminated filaments under tension. The materials tolerated sudden shifts and continuous vibration while maintaining load stability. This is a significant material reduction while improving product protection.
3. Removing a packaging component results in significant packaging reduction. For example, etching or engraving on glass and plastic bottles allow labels to be removed. For example, Tonejet’s Cyclone C4+ replaces the pressure-sensitive labels and shrink sleeves traditional in microbreweries’ short-run beers. Packaging optimization to reduce packaging is most effective by conducting yearly reviews.
Insights of Calvin Lahkan, Myles Cohen, Rob Kaszubowski, and Bob Kayser are appreciated.
US-based MycoTechnology says it is set to accelerate its growth plans in Europe after the European Commission granted Novel Food status to two of its mycelium-based plant proteins.
Mycelium is the fibrous root structure of mushrooms. MycoTechnology’s range of ingredients, called FermentIQ, consist of pea and rice protein fermented by shiitake mushroom mycelia in a process that “deodorises and de-flavours” the protein to improve the sensory, functional, and nutritional attributes.
FermentIQ received a positive opinion earlier this year by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which said it considered the ingredients to be safe for use in a wide range of food and beverage formats.
The European Commission has now granted Novel Food status to two of the FermentIQ formats.: MLL (milled) and PTP (protein powder).
FermentIQ PTP is claimed to offer improved solubility and mouthfeel in protein beverages, while MLL aims to deliver nutrition, taste and mouthfeel profiles ideal for dairy alternatives.
The company also produces a texturized offering (TXP) which claims to provide a superior springy and juicy texture in meat analogues. This also has EU approval.
With Novel Food authorisation secured, MycoTechnology said it is set to accelerate its expansion into Europe, the company’s next major growth frontier. It has hired its first European sales representatives, based in Germany and the Netherlands, and has recently announced a partnership with Brenntag for distribution in the region.
The company’s European expansion will be underpinned by its recent Series E fundraise, which generated $85 million to fuel growth and proliferation of its technology.
Welcoming the news, Alan Hahn, MycoTechnology CEO, commented: “Authorisation means we can now offer food and beverage manufacturers access to our cutting-edge plant protein in Europe for the first time. FermentIQ is a transformative, game-changing plant protein with multiple application and nutritional advantages over other plant protein ingredients. It enables brands to overcome the technical and taste barriers associated with other plant proteins, providing consumers with a compelling reason to switch.”
The addition of sales and distribution capabilities in Europe means that MycoTechnology’s product portfolio – comprising FermentIQ plant proteins and ClearIQ flavour clarifiers – is now available globally, with sales networks already in place in North America, Latin America, and Asia.
Hahn added: “Harnessing the power of mushroom mycelia to produce high quality plant protein is perfectly aligned with both consumer expectations and the EU’s commitment to sustainability and food security. It’s little surprise, then, that we are already in conversations with leading food industry players in Europe to formulate and commercialize products containing FermentIQ plant protein.”
Last year, Lisa Wetstone, Director, Innovation and Growth Strategy at MycoTechnology explained to FoodNavigator that through mycelium, a fungus secretes an array of enzymes into its environment, which break down biological polymers into absorbable material, as well as leaving behind beneficial metabolites.
She said: “These attributes of mushroom mycelia enable our unique fermentation processing to improve the physical properties of our pea and rice protein blend – including taste, aroma, solubility, and colour.”
The company claims that MLL and PTP both have a Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS) of 1 for individuals aged 3 and older, signifying that their protein content is of the highest nutritional quality.
FermentIQ also offers reduced anti-nutrients and improved digestibility, allowing 99.9% of protein consumed to be digested. A recent study found that MycoTechnology’s fermentation process improves protein quality by more than 20% for children aged three and above, adolescents, and adults, based on the Digestible Indispensable Amino Acid Score (DIAAS). As a result, the company claims its FermentIQ protein ingredients offer a nutritional value competitive with animal and soy proteins.
•A novel approach for improved utilization of food industry waste/by-products. •Industry waste streams selected: grape pomace and broken wheat. •3D printing for the production of customized foods with improved value. •Insights for cleaner production and effective resource recovery. •Optimization of 3D printing conditions in the in-house fabricated printer CARK.
Wastes and by-products of the food industry are often overlooked and utilized or underutilized. Of late, the emphasis is being given to recover, recycle, and recondition waste, promoting sustainable food processing.
In this research, grape pomace and broken wheat which are otherwise sent for animal feed were collected from industries and were used as key ingredients of a 3D printing material supply for the production of functional cookies.
The administration of grape pomace augmented the nutritional value and antioxidant properties of the cookies. Printing using a nozzle diameter of 1.28 mm, extruder motor speed of 600 rpm, and print speed of 400 mm/min gave the optimal printability for the in-house developed extrusion-based food 3D printer CARK.
The printed constructs were post-processed at 130 °C for 12 min and the 6% grape pomace formulation received the highest preference during sensory evaluation. Interestingly, the developed product was rich in proteins and dietary fiber.
This approach highlights the potential for value addition of industrial waste streams with good consumer preference. Accordingly, the unmatched levels of customization that additive manufacturing offers can be well complemented with personalizing foods in terms of nutritional content, whilst providing scope for cleaner production practices and improved recovery of resources from food processing wastes.
This study explains a novel and sustainable approach for the utilization of food industry waste streams. Using the 3D printing approach, grape pomace powder-incorporated broken wheat (flour) cookies were prepared.
While it offers the merits of producing foods with customized shapes, the approach can overcome consumer perception of having foods from waste and by-products. An in-house fabricated extrusion printer was used and the printing conditions were optimized.
Consequently, a detailed study on the effect of printing parameters on the different cookie formulations was performed. This further confirmed that an increase in grape content increased the viscosity, thereby resulting in the utilization of lesser print speed, and extrusion rate for improved printability.
Moreover, baking the printed cookies revealed improved structural features, and thus confirming post-processing enhances the shape stability of the printed matrices. Sensory preferences explain that this approach has the potential to produce value-added foods with functional benefits.
While the concept focuses on the ‘waste-to-wealth’ approach, the findings of this research add a new dimension to 3D printing technology. In the future, this study can further be developed by incorporating macro/micronutrients from the under-utilized food sources.
If you’re looking for the main driving force behind the latest trends in consumer behavior, look no further than that timeworn cliché from the 1990s: “It’s the economy, stupid.”
As global consumers settle into a new normal in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than two-thirds (67%), on average, say they feel the economy in their country is bad, according to Ipsos Global Advisor polling in 28 countries, and inflation is their top worry among social and political issues. Those worries are not unfounded: During the past 12 months, 62% of global consumers have reported a noticeable rise in the cost of their food and beverages, according to Innova Market Insights.
The current inflationary economy is prompting consumers to reconsider the kind of value they are receiving for their food and beverage dollars in a variety of ways. In fact, “Redefining Value” heads Innova Market Insights’ Top Ten Trends for 2023 report, as consumers adapt to the global cost-of-living crisis in the face of economic and political volatility, says Lu Ann Williams, cofounder and global insights director at Innova.
Higher prices are already impacting U.S. consumer purchasing decisions for food staples, the Rabobank North American Agribusiness Review reported in August, as shoppers switch to cheaper alternatives and seek out deals and discounts. McKinsey & Co.’s latest U.S. Consumer Pulse survey suggests that 74% of consumers are changing their shopping behavior to get more for their money, including buying food in bulk, adjusting the quantities purchased, and opting for a less expensive brand or private label.
Food Technology editors talked to a wide range of food industry market researchers, trendspotters, and strategists to home in on the top five consumer behavior trends that will shape the food and beverage market in 2023 and beyond. Here’s what we found.
“Inflated prices for both groceries and foodservice favor in-home meals as consumers try to keep their food expenditures in check.”- Darren Seifer, executive director, food and beverage industry analyst , NPD Group
1. Rethinking the Value Equation
Cost and value for money have become more important to one in two consumers globally when making food choices, according to Innova research. As a result, shoppers are turning their attention to simple but nutritious goods that are affordable. Key behaviors include buying in bulk, opting for private labels, cooking from scratch, reducing spending on luxury items, and purchasing fewer items, says Williams.
“Consumer interest in affordability has gone up by 70% in the 12 months to July 2022,” says Ranjana Sundaresan, lead research analyst at food and beverage artificial intelligence company Spoonshot. “As part of this, people are trying to make their budgets stretch as much as possible, and this means trading down or cutting back on certain foods. Interest in trading down has seen a steep 163% increase in the 12 months to July 2022 as well.”
But for many consumers, value is also about more than finding the lowest price. Nearly 60% of consumers agree that they’d rather pay more for a higher-quality product than pay less to receive average quality, according to recent Mintel research.
“Assuming we continue to see a slump or recession, the biggest thing [foodservice] consumers will want to see are creative, innovative offerings that are perceived as being a good value,” says Mike Kostyo, trendologist and associate director, content at Datassential. “That doesn’t mean going all in on low prices and combo meals—far from it. Instead, it means to think holistically about what value means in the consumer’s mind.”
Consumers who are cutting back on restaurant meals to save money, for example, may see in-home treats or sophisticated meal solutions from the grocery store as a good value for their food dollars compared with the cost of dining out.
“Inflated prices for both groceries and foodservice favor in-home meals as consumers try to keep their food expenditures in check,” says Darren Seifer, executive director, food and beverage industry analyst at NPD Group. “Even with food-at-home costs rising faster than restaurant costs, an in-home meal is on average about a third of the cost of a restaurant meal. Consumers know this, and the recovery in restaurant traffic slowed in Q2 of this year, especially for lower-income consumers.”
Dining patterns have shifted, and there’s more change ahead, says Joan Driggs, vice president, content and thought leadership at IRI. “An IRI OmniConsumer survey in July 2022 finds that 78% of meals are prepared at home, compared with 48% in 2019,” she notes. “This is a trend that will continue into 2023, but it will look a little different. The scratch cooking of 2020 is giving way to more convenient meals at home. Consumers are increasingly looking for shortcuts, including cooking sauces, marinades, even prepped ingredients. These shortcuts are also an easy way for consumers to experience new cuisines.”
Jenny Zegler, associate director at Mintel Food & Drink, agrees that low prices will not be the only signals of value for many consumers, especially those with disposable income. “Consumers also will be looking for products that deliver value because they meet their personal preferences for essential nutrition, added health benefits, or natural ingredients,” says Zegler. “Indulgent food and drink categories will be sources of value because they are affordable treats that bring much-needed pleasure as we enter yet another year of uncertainty and stress.”
2. Plunging Into Private Label
It’s a new day for private label food and beverage products, with value-driven consumers taking a fresh look at alternatives to pricier name brand items. Sales of store-owned brands jumped 6.5% in the first quarter of 2022, according to market research firm Insider Intelligence, compared with a 5.2% increase in national brand sales, per data from IRI. Insider Intelligence reports that nearly 80% of U.S. adults say they either have purchased or are willing to purchase private label pantry and other products, and more than six in 10 consumers (63%) say brand name is not important to them when shopping most categories, according to new Mintel research.
“With the continuation of economic struggles in the United States and abroad, consumers will consider trading down from their brands to private label—unless brands have made a deep connection with consumers and fit as an important part of their life or lifestyle,” says Dan O’Connell, CEO, FoodMix Marketing Communications.
“With inflation currently at a whopping 8.7% or higher … I foresee consumers ‘downshifting’ all of their food procurement and consumption activities,” adds Liz Moskow, principal at Bread & Circus Future Food Advisory. “On shelf, this looks like a switch from name brand to private store label. Or trial of new products that have promotional pricing rather than staying brand loyal no matter the price or size of the product.”
Private label baking mixes, soup, prepared foods, dried vegetables, canned fish, cereal, and baby food are the biggest category winners for the first half of the year, according to Catalina’s Shopper Intelligence Platform. (See figure on this page.) Catalina’s analysis suggests that consumers looking for affordable lunch and dinner solutions are driving higher sales of store brand canned fish and soup, while the 10%–11% hikes in brand name cereal prices reported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture make private label alternatives more attractive.
Major retailers already are losing no time in beefing up their store brand offerings. In September, Kroger announced the launch of Smart Way, a new opening price point product line in the Our Brands portfolio that combines 16 legacy brands into a single, easy-to-find identity. Kroger initially offered 150 Smart Way products and plans to add more items. Target debuted its Favorite Day indulgent store brand line in 2021, joining the retailer’s successful Good & Gather lineup of more than 1,200 items that rolled out in 2019.
3. Consuming Even More Consciously
It’s been well documented that sustainability continues to shine as an important concern for consumers looking to spend their food and beverage dollars with companies they believe in. Sustainability ranks high as a consumer goal in the United States (64%), according to new McKinsey & Co. research, and nearly 50% of global consumers say they have changed their diet in the past two years to lead a more environmentally friendly lifestyle, says Brad Schwan, vice president, marketing at ADM, citing 2022 data from FMCG Gurus market research firm.
Industry observers predict that the desire to eat foods that are positioned as ethically produced will only grow. More than half (54%) of global consumers believe they can make a difference to the world through their purchase decisions, according to 2021 data from Euromonitor, while ADM’s OutsideVoice research found that 73% of global consumers say they feel more positively about companies that are transparent about where and how products were made, raised, or grown.
“Anyone who has Gen Z family members has probably been lectured about seeing a piece of plastic in the trash instead of the recycling and the animal welfare rating on any meat cooked in the house.”- Lu Ann Williams, global insights director , Innova Market Insights
Among Generation Z and millennials in particular, food and brand choices are important signifiers of lifestyle, beliefs, and values, says Innova’s Williams, and these younger consumers are used to sharing their views openly and widely. She adds that for mainstream consumers, conscious consumption is not a primary purchase driver, but it is a tiebreaker.
“Anyone who has Gen Z family members has probably been lectured about seeing a piece of plastic in the trash instead of the recycling and the animal welfare rating on any meat cooked in the house,” Williams says.
Ben & Jerry’s has announced its mission to make chocolate “100% modern slavery free” by partnering with Dutch chocolate maker Tony’s Chocolonely for a new Chocolatey Love A-Fair ice cream set to launch in January 2023, based on Tony’s milk caramel sea salt bar. The ice cream giant is sourcing cocoa beans for the new product through Tony’s Open Chain, which helps companies take steps to end slavery and child labor in the chocolate industry via a transparent supply chain and fair payment to cocoa growers.
Carbon neutral continues to gain ground as a sustainability claim too, through new offerings like Conagra Brands’ Evol, the first brand to introduce carbon-neutral single-serve frozen meals certified through the Carbonfree Product Certification Program. Five Cheese Alfredo Mac with Chicken is among the eight Evol meals, including three vegetarian offerings, that are produced in a TRUE certified Zero Waste facility.
“We’re seeing millennials and Gen Zers being more and more willing to change their food choices if they can reduce their carbon footprint as long as it’s delicious, interesting, and convenient (and doesn’t mean more complicated cooking at home),” says Arlin Wasserman, founder and managing director of Changing Tastes food strategy consultancy. “Climate change is going to be a big part of their future.”
Suzy Badaracco, president of Culinary Tides forecasting think tank, says younger consumers also tend to believe there is a health benefit to consuming sustainable products, in addition to their desire to influence corporate policy with their purchase choices. In fact, 28% of consumers globally now include “environmental well-being” when thinking about holistic health, according to Innova Market Insights 2021 research.
4. Accepting More Plant-Based Products
According to a McKinsey & Co. report, about 25% of consumers say they ate more plant-based products during the pandemic, and 15% expect to start consuming plant-based products in the next year, joining the 33% who already call themselves consumers of plant-based products. Although sustainability is a factor in opting to eschew meat, most consumers—especially in the United States—eat and drink plant-based products to benefit their own health much more than the health of the environment, McKinsey’s research suggests.
There’s no stunting growth in the $7.4 billion retail market for plant-based foods, up from $6.9 billion in 2020, according to the Good Food Institute. Plant-based food sales grew three times faster than total food sales in 2021 and have rocketed up 54% in the past three years.
As the plant-based market expands, watch for consumers to become more adventurous in their product selections. “No longer merely a mimic, green gastronomy will blossom as a standalone sector in 2023, giving brands significant opportunities to diversify and expand,” predicts Innova Market Insights in its Top Ten Trends for 2023 report.
Two-thirds of respondents to Innova’s global survey expressed a desire to try plant-based versions of traditional, local cuisines, and the industry is responding with a large increase in ready-meal offerings, with lots of opportunity for expansion into meal kits and creative recipe combinations. In September, Impossible Foods unveiled a new lineup of eight single-serve, frozen, plant-based entrées called Impossible Bowls, including Chili Mac with Impossible Pork and Teriyaki Impossible Chicken. Beyond Meat has rolled out new Beyond Steak, frozen, plant-based, seared steak tips that can be prepared in a skillet or air fryer in just five minutes.
“Plant-forward trends will continue to thrive, with markets and brands moving to expand into kids’ foods and snacks such as vegan cheese sticks or plant-based growing up milk,” says Kamesh Ellajosyula, president and chief innovation and quality officer at Olam Food Ingredients. He adds that some brands are also trying to change the perception that plant-based products are pricey by offering cost-accessible products such as vegan fast-food imitations or more sophisticated meal kit options.
5. Choosing Functional Foods for Mental Health
A 2021 global survey by Kerry suggests that more than 40% of consumers have purchased more functional foods and drinks since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to seeking immunity support, consumers show a growing interest in addressing mental health issues that have taken their toll in the wake of the pandemic, say industry experts. Nearly half of global consumers say they are more conscious of their mental well-being because of the pandemic, according to 2021 data from FMCG Gurus, and Mintel reports that one-quarter of consumers consume functional foods for their calming/relaxing benefits.
“While health and wellness were prominent before COVID-19, the pandemic further heightened this holistic health trend.”- Amy Marks-McGee, founder , Trendincite
“While health and wellness were prominent before COVID-19, the pandemic further heightened this holistic health trend,” says Amy Marks-McGee, founder of market research firm Trendincite. “To stay healthy, consumers have turned to food and beverage as ‘medicine.’”
ADM’s Schwan has a similar perspective. “We foresee opportunities in the areas of functional and active nutrition, and self-care eating practices to benefit physical, mental, and emotional well-being,” says Schwan. “For instance, 48% of global consumers plan to address their mental wellness over the next year—an issue that ranks just behind immune function, digestive function, and heart health.”
For many, a desire for improved wellness through diet translates into a demand for functional foods that address their specific health concerns. The global functional food and beverage market is projected to grow from $281.1 billion in 2021 to $529.7 billion in 2028 at a compound annual growth rate of 9.5%, according to Fortune Business Insights.
New functional products tapping into the mental health focus include Velty freeze-dried, caffeine-free coffee featuring functional ingredients like lion’s mane and reishi mushrooms for stress reduction and immune support. Nightfood, which bills itself as the “sleep-friendly snack company,” rolled out its new Prime Time Chocolate Chip cookie this summer with ingredients and nutrients that research suggests can support nighttime relaxation and better sleep quality, according to the company’s website.
“We will continue to see functional ingredients with specific benefits touted in product claims, … [and] I think mental health will be the next evolution of functional food, with a focus on mood-enhancing ingredients such as mushrooms and adaptogens,” Marks-McGee predicts.
More Trend Talk From Industry Watchers
“In 2023, consumers will continue to think more critically about the true value of the food and drink they buy.” —Melanie Bartelme, global food analyst, Mintel
“[Gen Z and young millennial] wellness needs may develop [into] a continued focus on personalized nutrition, coupled with a search for better-for-me quality food and drink offerings and evolving immunity tie-ins.” —Rob Corliss, chef/founder, ATE culinary consultancy
“The acceleration [in private label growth] is the result of inflation and the lingering effects of the pandemic and will cause a permanent shift for consumers.” —Louis Biscotti, national food and beverage services leader, Marcum
“We are seeing … a move toward functionality that is more practical and substantiated, as previous trends may have overpromised on delivery (e.g., CBD, turmeric). Nutrient density is likely to revert back to clear benefits (inherent fiber, digestibility of protein grams) to ensure consumers are spending their dollars wisely.” —Shelley Balanko, senior vice president, The Hartman Group
“The … continued growth of vegan, vegetarian, and flexitarian diets will push for further adoption of plant-based and animal-free products. This major trend is driven by the growing awareness of the environmental impact of the modern food system, coupled with the growing global health awareness.” —Eyal Afergan, co-founder and CEO, Imagindairy
Essential oils smell great. But what do researchers have to say about the health benefits of essential oils? Are they really safe remedies for anxiety, stress, pain and other health problems?
Since the dawn of civilization, people have turned to the power of plants for healing purposes. But one folk medicine in particular seems more popular than ever: essential oils.
Today, there’s renewed interest in using essential oils to improve physical or psychological well-being. One poll found that a third of Americans believe in the health benefits of essential oils and aromatherapy. No longer niche, these little vials of plant essence are a billion-dollar industry, favored by Gwyneth Paltrow and grandmas alike.
With around 90 essential oils on the market — each with its own purported healing qualities — there’s a so-called “cure” for practically everything. Lavender, sandalwood and bergamot are popular essential oils for stress relief. Varieties like ylang-ylang and jasmine are reputed to boost libido. Some, like lemon oil, are believed to address a laundry list of conditions: morning sickness, pain and acne, to name a few. But there’s a problem with essential oil claims: Science hasn’t caught up to their popularity. There simply haven’t been enough large-scale, peer-reviewed studies in humans to prove whether essential oils really can improve health or mood, or support any other commonly bragged about health benefits of essential oils.
With this in mind, let’s clear up what essential oils are, how they are thought to work, and what research says about them.
What’s in Your Oils: Are Essential Oils Safe?
Essential oils are highly concentrated extracts of plant material — such as seeds, flowers, stems or roots.
But it can often be tough for consumers to know what they’re really buying. The market isn’t regulated, so there tends to be a lot of variation between essential oils — even among those that originate from the same brand.
“The constituent makeup of essential oils will vary from batch to batch, as they are drawn from plants that vary from country to country, field to field and even within the same plant from morning to evening,” says Mark Moss, a psychologist who studies essential oils at Northumbria University in the U.K., in an email to Discover. “The major components will always be there, but the relative concentration will vary.”
Another important thing to keep in mind is that essential oils haven’t been put through rigorous FDA testing and approval like the over-the-counter drugs available at your neighborhood pharmacy. So what essential oils do for health, if anything, is still pretty murky.
“Essential oils are neither medicines nor drugs because the effects have not been fully assessed yet in terms of science,” says Hideki Kashiwadani, a physiology researcher at Kagoshima University in Japan, in an email to Discover.
Despite this, essential oils have wide appeal, particularly among people who have grown dissatisfied with modern Western medicine. And this alternative therapy is showing no signs of slowing down.
How Essential Oils are Used
Most essential oils are inhaled via diffusion or applied topically to the skin after being mixed with a carrier oil. Other essential oils are supposed to be ingested, but medical professionals and health authorities generally warn against the safety of this method.
When essential oils are inhaled via aromatherapy, compounds are absorbed through receptors in our noses, which send messages to our olfactory system, the part of the brain responsible for our sense of smell. Eventually, these messages reach other areas of the brain, such as the limbic system, which plays a role in our emotions.
When essential oils are applied topically for cosmetic reasons or to treat aches and pains, the compounds are absorbed into the skin and eventually enter the bloodstream before they’re metabolized by the liver.
But beyond that, even scientists have a tough time figuring out what various essential oils really do. Since there are no accepted standards for essential oils, Kashiwadani explains that scientists often find it challenging to replicate another scientist’s experiment.
“One of the problems with essential oils and the lack of standardization is that you can’t tell if two researchers are actually testing the same essential oil,” Moss says.
But other issues — which are surprisingly commonplace in scientific research — further complicate matters. For instance, human studies on essential oils are few and far between. Of the research that has been conducted on humans, many studies involved small numbers of participants, which can skew results. As a rule of thumb, reviews or meta-reviews, which draw conclusions from large numbers of similar studies, tend to be the most reliable and comprehensive.
We also must remember that correlation does not equal causation. In other words, a mere association between two things isn’t enough to prove a direct cause-and-effect relationship. So, even if a study found people who smelled lavender aroma felt less anxious, something else may be responsible for the effect (such as controlled breathing).
On top of that, the results from scientific studies can sometime be misinterpreted or blown out of proportion. When scientists study treatments, they’re looking for changes that are “statistically significant.” All this means is that the results cannot be explained by random chance alone. So the impact of an essential oil might be scientifically significant, but fall far short of what we might view as meaningful.
In light of the shortcomings of essential oil studies, a lot of the information concerning the health benefits of essential oils tends to be anecdotal or rooted in folklore. And their safety hasn’t been fully vetted. So it’s important for people to remember that natural or organic doesn’t directly translate to being “safe” or “beneficial.” Plant compounds — especially in high doses — can be toxic, irritating or may cause allergic reactions or drug interactions.
What Are the Health Benefits of Essential Oils?
But essential oils may not be totally worthless. Based on his own work, Moss said rosemary, sage and peppermint oils might improve memory and cognition to a degree. He also says lavender has been linked with improved sleep. Just don’t expect essential oils to be magical elixirs. They’re a far cry from being on medication, and shouldn’t replace standard medical care.
“The effects of essential oils are small. They are not a panacea. They can provide small benefits for individuals and should, in my opinion, be seen as self-care life enhancers rather than treatments as such,” Moss said.
If anything, many essential oils smell nice. So, if spritzing your pillow with lavender oil brings enjoyment and relaxation — even via the placebo effect — is there really anything wrong with that?
“Don’t go searching for solutions to problems. Consider the potential for enjoying the experience. That is a benefit in itself,” Moss said.
Essential Oils as ‘Medicine’
Are essential oils safe and effective treatments for certain medical conditions? The jury’s still out, but Discover rounded up some of the published work that explores the effects of some popular essential oils in animals and humans. If you’re thinking about trying essential oils, make sure you check with your doctor first.
The woodsy aroma of rosemary may do more than perk up a roast chicken. A small study of 20 people from Moss’ research team at Northumbria University linked rosemary to improved memory and cognition, particularly among older adults.
Another small study from Moss’ team found that rosemary might improve test scores among school-aged kids. Children who took tests in rooms scented with rosemary received higher scores than children in nonscented rooms.
Despite his work investigating rosemary, Moss said he’s not necessarily an advocate of promoting the use of essential oils, but thinks consumers should be able to make their own choices.
Lavender is one of the most popular scents in aromatherapy. Studies in both mice and horses have found that the scent of lavender is calming. In humans, small-scale studies found that it might have a modest effect on anxiety.
One study of 100 people found that lavender slightly improved anxiety before surgery. The researchers cautioned, however, that additional research is needed before drawing conclusions between lavender aroma and anxiety.
Taking lavender oil capsules orally might also have some effect on anxiety. That’s according to a meta-analysis of five studies that involved more than 500 people, which looked at how lavender capsules measured up to a placebo and some anti-anxiety drugs. Although lavender capsules (also known as silexan) helped with anxiety, it also caused unpleasant side effects like nausea, belching and diarrhea in some people.
Lavender is also a common sleep aid. A review of studies concluded that it may offer some small to moderate sleep-promoting benefits. However, the review called for larger and more rigorous studies that investigate lavender and sleep.
Beyond that, lavender may have some pro-social benefits. A study that involved 90 people found that the aroma of lavender was more effective than a control in promoting a sense of trust among strangers.
But lavender oil maybe isn’t a good idea for everyone. It may be a hormone disrupter, and studies have linked regular exposure to lavender oil with abnormal breast growth in girls. Lavender (and tea tree oil) was also found to cause abnormal breast tissue growth in boys.
Peppermint oil, which may have pain-relieving qualities, has been used for centuries to treat gastrointestinal problems. But unlike some other essential oils, there’s pretty sound evidence to back up these claims. Reviews of studies have found that taking peppermint oil capsules may ease irritable bowel syndrome symptoms, like gastrointestinal pain.
A small pilot study also found that peppermint oil capsules may be helpful for people who have problems swallowing during meals or experience noncardiac chest pains. Consuming peppermint tablets helped ease discomfort in these patients, likely because the compounds helped to relax smooth muscles in the lower esophagus.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is often found in cosmetic products because of its purported anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties. When applied to the skin, tea tree oil might be an effective treatment for mild to moderate acne.
A review study found tea tree oil was better than placebos, and just as effective as benzoyl peroxide, in stopping pimples. In addition to acne, several older studies suggest tea tree oil may be helpful for nail fungus and athlete’s foot.
Despite cost and inflation concerns, trend reports note rising demand among many consumers for foods with functionality, such as those that can help bolster the immune system. Many brands are responding.
Among European consumers, 3 in 4 believe they better understand what works for their health and wellbeing, leading to an increased interest in fortified and functional foods, according to proprietary research from Kerry Tate and nutrition conducted back in 2022.
According to Innova Market Insights’ top 10 trends for 2023, cost and inflation are key concerns for consumers and food manufacturers. Yet despite these worries, consumers are ready to pay for products which are fresh, locally produced and for functional ingredients that boost physical health.
There are many examples of food and beverage manufacturers incorporating functional properties into product formulation.
This is particularly the case in beverages and the rapidly modernising low/no alcohol sector. Much product innovation here focuses on functional benefits functional benefits, and the use of botanicals to create more intense flavours to broaden the options available to consumers.
Recent data from IWSR Drinks Market Analysis notes the introduction of spirit alternatives across a wider range of categories, such as aperitifs, dark spirits, and agave. The use of nootropics, vitamins, and adaptogens, meanwhile, is seeing product messaging shifting from the absence of alcohol to flavour and other benefits.
The ‘world’s first’ saffron and lavender enriched functional beer
One of the latest arrivals to the UK’s maturing low/no beer scene is Ticket, a saffron and lavender-enriched brew that positions itself as a functional pale ale of Persian descent.
Loosely based on Shams, a popular Persian non-alcoholic brew from before the Iranian Revolution, Ticket is a heady blend of malted barley, hops, yeast, saffron, lavender and orange. Brewed at one of the leading craft brewers in the north of England, it recently secured the following review from the awareness charity Alcohol Change: “If you’re going to make a beer with no alcohol, it needs something else to make it memorable. Ticket pale ale certainly has that courtesy of the inclusion of saffron and lavender…The saffron gives the beer a striking yellow hue like no other. There are plenty of citrusy hops and the lavender adds extra floral notes…it’s definitely one for those who appreciate a flavour-packed pale ale.”
Saffron, as the world’s most expensive spice with a ‘big flavour’, certainly isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Saffron’s inclusion was as much about creating a unique functional brew as it was about producing a distinct flavour, the company’s Faye Soleimani told FoodNavigator. “Saffron has a proud reputation for boosting mood, improving memory and enhancing libido,” we were told. “Notable saffron antioxidants include crocin, safranal and crocetin which protect against oxidative stress, protect against brain cell degradation and reduce appetite. Lavender for its part has a proud reputation for aiding sleep and tackling asthma.”
Back to the non-alcoholic drink sector, there is evidence of companies widening their offerings and innovating with botanicals, adaptogens and similar ingredients as more consumers take an interest in their mental and physical wellbeing.
Drinks made using water kefir, a fermented, living ingredient with a powerful probiotic punch and immune-boosting benefits
Newly-launched PiQi has created a range of drinks made using water kefir, a fermented, living ingredient with a powerful probiotic punch and immune-boosting benefits. The PiQi range features organic ingredients and unique water kefir flavour combinations that include butterfly pea flower and grapefruit and cardamom.
Water kefir has recognized probiotic qualities and can help support healthy gut microbiota, which plays an important role in digestion, weight management, and the immune system, according to Aksana Fitzpatrick, co-founder of PiQi. “We wanted to provide variety to consumers, specifically options outside of the dairy isle with a unique set of probiotic strains to support gut-health and overall wellbeing,” he said.
“A healthy gut is a diverse gut, and we know that diversity of our microbiome decreases with age. Yet there aren’t many strains in general that are used commercially in foods like yogurt for example. You tend to see the same few, which is why we believe that turning to traditional foods and getting naturally occurring probiotics from a variety of fermented foods and drinks, like water kefir, can be a better alternative.”
Water kefir does however have some drawbacks from a manufacturing point of view, such as a much shorter shelf-life and the presence of live yeast, for example. “People in the industry often compare it to either soda or kombucha instead of a chilled, cultured dairy-like product and with that expect 6 months+ shelf life,” said Fitzpatrick. “But kefir is a living product and getting to this shelf-life would mean sacrificing the quality and live cultures which we will not compromise on.”
Traditional fermented foods are familiar yet novel and they are regaining popularity as more research is conducted about the gut and its importance to how our entire immune system functions, he added.
“Benefits of kefir have been studied for a long time. However, water kefir is not well known like its milk counterpart in the West. It’s a traditional fermented beverage that originated in South America and is completely dairy-free, making it a more sustainable option as well. We work with an EU-based R&D lab that’s helping us understand our own kefir culture better and check up on its health and diversity over time. At the time of bottling, we know that there are up to 30 billion live cultures per 250ml.
“Our main customer base consists of people who are already familiar with dairy products like yogurt and milk kefir on some level but who don’t enjoy the taste and texture, and alcohol reducers who enjoy the bubbles but not the hangover. Water Kefir is a lot easier to drink, it’s a nourishing treat and is definitely growing in popularity not just in UK but across Europe in places like France and Portugal and in North America where it’s a more established market already.”
Sparkling botanical water with active gut health and immune boosting properties
Jamu Wild Water is another recently-launched brand that makes sparkling botanical water with active gut health and immune boosting properties. Its co-founder, Tahi Grant-Sturgis, told us that as the understanding of adaptogenic and nootropic ingredients widens, functionality within the drink sector is an increasing interest for consumers who are becoming more health savvy, and looking for added health value in their purchases.
“This is the opportunity Jamu Wild Water wishes to further by making sure those ‘functional’ benefits are accessible to all age groups,” she said. “Our sparkling waters focus on gut and immune health with apoptogenic botanicals and prebiotic fibre to support these systems. They’re refreshingly simple, bursting with natural ingredients and appeal to all ages.”
Of course, it is much easier for drinks brands to be agile when formulating with these types of functional ingredient. In the realm of food, it is snack brands are typically finding more room for manoeuvrability when formulating with functional ingredients.
Snacks to improve both the taste and functional benefits
HFSS compliant snack cracker bites maker Pep & Lekker, for example, has revamped its recipe to improve both the taste and functional benefits. “Our snacks now include inulin powder and are a certified pre-biotic,” said Founder and Director Susan Gafsen. “There is so much research now to support the link with gut and mental health and we have seen the success of so many prebiotic cereals, so we saw the gap and need to provide this benefit in an ‘on the go’ snack.”
“Our snacks also include 113% of daily plant-based omega 3s, which is very important for those on a plant based diet to eat sufficient Omega 3’s to maintain the right energy and fitness levels particularly if they are active, and 19% of daily magnesium, more than 10x that of a banana. Magnesium is important to support immunity and women pre or post menopause are often in need of supplements.”
As the food industry champions full transparency and shifts to finding preventive measures against foodborne outbreaks, genomics testing provider Clear Labs is developing surveillance and diagnostics to progress accuracy and efficiency in today’s food safety testing tech.
Today’s food industry focuses on transparency and a better understanding of foodborne outbreaks to prevent rather than treat their prevalence. Next-generation sequencing (NGS) technology for pathogen detection and strain identification are recent food safety testing technology developments in the food industry to tackle these needs.
Cost, scalability, time to gather results and accuracy are also key considerations for manufacturers, consumers and therefore, the wider food industry when it comes to ensuring food safety.
Robust and multi-step processes that focus on monitoring critical control points, environmental monitoring and pathogen detection in foods are also applied to ascertain food safety.
What does food safety mean?
“In terms of microbiology, food safety means the absence of pathogenic microorganisms,” said Andrew Lin, PhD, a senior scientist at Clear Labs. Today’s consumers expect transparency. They also hope that the food industry employs effective control measures to ensure that the foods they sell are free from pathogens, Lin added.
The food industry uses various measures to reduce the risk of pathogens in their food, including acid, temperature, time, oxygen and moisture, Lin shares. Routine testing for pathogens is one key consideration for ensuring food safety. “The Hurdle concept is that using multiple control measures reduces the risk of pathogens even more,” Lin explained.
The employment of a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) system to analyse their process and implement proper controls to ensure food safety is also vital. Lin notes that companies must also consider regulations and develop robust environmental monitoring programmes.
In Europe, the European Commission states that the procedures based on (HACCP) principles are mandatory for most businesses that operate with food or feed in the European Union. “They are essential to put in place, implement and maintain a food safety management system, protecting consumers from hazards,” the European Commission states, referring to HACCP principles.
The evolution of testing technology
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the food safety testing technology space, Lin shared, as it has put many workforces under stress. As a result, companies have struggled with staffing, especially in areas requiring particular expertise and training, such as lab technicians. Efficiency and accuracy are now crucial components of the processes required to ensure food safety.
Several techniques, including PCR, qPCR, RT-PCR, and LAMP, can detect nucleic acids and others, notably ELISA, ELFA and lateral flow for antibody-based detection. Food safety technology also identifies strains where sequencing and NGS come in. Other forms of technology include traditional serotyping, MLST, PFGE, DNA array and Bead-based arrays.
Clear Labs is focused on accelerating the adoption of NGS so that more people can leverage it for deeper analytics and insights. NGS strives to provide more accurate, complete insights into food safety testing.
Exploring advanced technologies
Clear Labs focuses on understanding infectious disease genomics through food safety testing technology. Applying its knowledge of DNA sequencing, Clear Labs developed its sequencing service, Clear Transparency. Its service is designed to help retailers and consumers know what is in the products they are buying and where they are coming from.
The automated sequencing platform provider for diagnostics then set its sights on developing NGS technology to address customers’ other food-based needs, including pathogen detection.
“While other rapid techniques such as PCR or ELISA could detect pathogens in foods, Clear Labs’ NGS technology generated millions of reads, covering multiple genetic markers per pathogen,” said Lin.
By developing its platform with built-in redundancy, Clear Labs states its pathogen detection products are more reliable, reducing false-negative and false-positive results, and provide more information such as details on serotype or strain.
With its automated platform, Clear Labs can perform NGS and data analysis to deliver automation and reduce errors while increasing repeatability and robustness with less expertise and training to reduce the hands-on time to between 30 minutes and one hour.
The provider of automated, NGS platforms for diagnostics offers Clear Safety salmonella testing that detects and identifies serotypes, while its Clear Safety listeria testing detects and identifies species and performs similarity analysis of different listeria strains.
Trusting the testing technology
Commenting on today’s most significant challenge in applying food safety testing technologies, Lin shared: “Reluctance by some in the industry to adopt new technologies given the investment or training of staff on new methods.”
Lin adds that the industry needs to develop “rapid, accurate, cost-effective solutions for manufacturers and producers” to overcome this hurdle.
In 2022, Clear Labs is focusing its food safety efforts on liberating genomics, making NGS technology more accessible. It also plans to focus on optimising workflow and data analysis automation to reduce pain points for hesitant consumers.
Food Ingredients Europe (FiE) 2022 is in Paris this week, and FoodNavigator is on the ground speaking to newcomers to the B2B market.
Over a period of three days, ingredients companies are lining the show floor at the Paris Expo Porte de Versaille in the city’s 15th arrondissement. Some are industry veterans, and others, complete newcomers.
This latter cohort caught the eye of FoodNavigator, who was on the ground speaking with innovators re-thinking food ingredients with human and planetary health in mind.
From a blue-green microalgae touting mood-boosting properties to upcycled and fermented alternatives to animal-based protein, we’ve rounded up the most innovative solutions spotted at Food Ingredients Europe (FiE) 2022.
Replacing eggs and butter with plants
It has been estimated that producing a dozen eggs is associated with 2.7kg of CO2e, putting it in a similar category to dairy. At the same time, recent outbreaks of avian flu in Europe are expected to negatively impact egg supply.
Arnaud Delacour (CEO) and Oscar Castellani (CSO), co-founders of France-based The Very Co., are looking to solve both these issues – sustainability and stable supply – with plants. The start-up has developed a line of products designed to replace their conventional, animal-based counterparts: egg, egg white, and butter.
The VERY Co.’s egg replacement product is coined ‘Nomelet’. Like all the start-up’s products, it is completely vegan.
Nomelet will be sold in a powder format, which the company said makes it more sustainable. “Powder is more stable, easier to transport, and good for storage,” explained the start-up. Further, it is more sustainable than liquid-based egg replacements, we were told, as food makers can add the water themselves to save on transport weight.
The VERY Co. prides itself on a ‘clean’ ingredients list, which in the Nomelet product includes yellow peas, cornflour, and potato protein. Nomelet achieves a Nutri-Score ‘B’.
“Our formulations rely on science and technology to find the optimal combination in the ingredients and process to provide foods with the targeted functional, organoleptic and nutritional qualities.”
Aside from Nomelet, which as the name suggests can be used to make omelettes, as well as tortillas and bakery products, The VERY Co. has also developed a butter replacement, ‘Tourage’, and an egg white substitute sold in liquid form, Noblanc. Tourage can be used to make products such as patisseries, including vegan croissants, and the Noblanc, plant-based meringues.
Having received support from alt protein investor Big Idea Ventures, French investment bank BPI, as well as EIT Food, The VERY Co. is ready to launch onto the B2B ingredients market.
Upcycled and fermented ingredients
The UN estimates that one-third of all food intended for human consumption is lost or wasted. French start-up Green Spot Technologies is tackling food waste by upcycling by-products from local industry.
In the production of apple juice, for example, the pulp and skin are not used – and instead discarded or downcycled into animal feed. Green Spot Technologies is taking this would-be waste, fermenting it, and drying it for use as an ingredient – named Ferment’Up Pomme – by the food industry.
The start-up is doing the same with would-be waste from ketchup manufacturing. Its ingredient, Ferment’Up Tomate, can be used in meat analogue products. In a prototype product, the start-up used 8-10% Ferment’Up Tomate in a plant-based burger, and observed it also served to reduce the list of ingredients by adding flavour, colour, and added to its texture.
Aside from collaborating with juice, wine, and ketchup manufacturers, the start-up is also sourcing raw materials from beer brewers. By fermenting and drying brewers spent grain, Green Spot Technologies has developed Ferment’Up Drêches de brasserie, which can be used to make snack bars. In a date-based bar FoodNavigator sampled at FiE, Ferment’Up Drêches made up 25% of the final formulation.
The start-up is currently based in Toulouse, but will soon be expanding production to southeast France, near Avignon, to place the company closer to its suppliers.
Algae with a ‘positive effect’ on mood and activity
The benefits of freshwater microalgae Aphanizomenon flos-aque (AFA) are varied. Research suggests the blue-green algae has antioxidant and inflammatory properties, and scientist have even suggested it could even have an antitumor property.
AFA is naturally found in the Klamath Lake in Oregan US. Legend has it that indigenous peoples saw eagles flying into the Klamath Lake to feed on the blue/green freshwater microalgae and, inspired by the eagles, the Indians followed suit. Upon consuming AFA, the peoples felt happier and better fed, explained Vinh Ly at FiE in Paris. Sophie-s-BIoNutrients-Protein-made-from-microalgae-fed-with-food-waste-comes-to-Europe
Ly is CEO of Kyanos Biotechnologies, which he claims is the only company in the world to cultivate and produce AFA. While the microalgae continues to grow naturally in Klamath Lake, toxins are negatively impacting its production, he explained.
Kyanos Biotechnologies’ AFA contained 60% plant-based protein, and is a source of phenylethylamine, phycocyanine, vitamins, and all essential amino acids. Further, it contains PEA which ‘contributes to positive effect on mood and activity’ as well as vitamin B12, which contributes to the normal function of the nervous and immune systems while helping to reduce fatigue.
Importantly, it is not considered a novel food under EU law.
In Kyanos Biotechnologies’ patented indoor production method, the company grows other types of microorganisms alongside the AFA to protect against toxins. The company leverages by-products as feedstock, to which it adds the recycled non-AFA algae after harvest.
Under the Pastel d’Eau brand name, the company plans to first sell its AFA as health supplements, before moving into functional foods.
Upcycled brewers’ spent grain
Beer is the third most consumed beverage in the world, behind water and tea. Globally, it is estimated that 200bn litres of beer are brewed annually. In this process, grains provides sugars and a small percentage of starch, before being discarded or downcycled into animal feed.
However, as Aviaja Rieman-Andersen told FoodNavigator at FiE, after the brewing process the grains still contain aromas and energy. Rieman-Andersen, together with co-founders Karin Beukel and Emil Kroell, set up Denmark-based Circular Food Technology in 2018 to give brewers’ spent grain a new life.
Specifically, Rieman-Andersen and Beukel (Kroell has since left the business) upcycle brewers’ spent grain from beer and whisky production. In 2009, the founders established the Agrain brand, under which its sells flour made from brewers’ spent grain.
Every 500g bag of flour used can save the equivalent of two square-metres of agricultural land. The company does not use water in its production, and according to third party agency RE-VIU, CO2 emissions from its production are calculated at just 0.59 CO2e per kg of flour (unpackaged). Further, its Super Grain Flour contains 20% protein and 50% dietary fibre.
To demonstrate the product’s versatility, Agrain has developed a line of retail products – ranging from crisps to granola and crackers – which it sells into retail. But, as Rieman-Andersen explained, the company is focused on the B2B market.
“In order to develop a truly circular food system, there has to be volume. There is enough raw material [available], but not enough will be sold in crisps…it has to be sold in flour. Crisps, however, can help industry understand its potential,” she told FoodNavigator.
Nanotechnology in food
The health and wellness trend is well and truly established. Yet, not all health ingredients are stable enough to withstand all cooking condictions.
Nucaps’ technology can encapsulate antioxidants, probiotics, flavonoids, or DHA in either the nutraceutical or food industries. The protein-based technology is protected in harsh cooking environments, for example when baked in bread.
In Spain, a start-up working to protect these ingredients with miniature encapsulation technology. Nucaps, based in Navarra, Spain, is developing nanocapsules and biocapsules for bioactives and prebiotics.
Nucaps’ technology can be used to encapsulate antioxidants, probiotics, flavonoids, or DHA in either the nutraceutical or food industries, we were told at FiE. The protein-based technology is protected in harsh cooking environments, for example when baked in bread.
According to the start-up, the size of nanocapsules can be adjusted to avoid the nanomaterial label.