An Irresistible Appeal

Scientists at Caltech , using fermented juice as bait have discovered that a fruit fly can travel six million times its body length in search of food. 

Flies were lured by “a tantalizing cocktail of fermenting apple juice and champagne yeast  produces carbon dioxide and ethanol, which are irresistible to a fruit fly.” Scientists released buckets of fruit flies on a dry lakebed in California’s Mojave Desert, far away from any other tempting food source. 

The team is studying how far the flies would travel to a food source. Certain species of fruit flies are invasive and can cause significant agricultural damage. Their results will be published in the April issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Read more (Caltech)

Fermented honey topped the list of emerging ingredients in 2021, as presented by food industry intelligence firm Datassential at the Research Chefs Association’s RCA+ conference. Fermented honey is in the “sweet spot” (pun intended) of intersecting larger trends — consumers gravitating to honey as a sweetener and to fermented products for their health benefits.

Read more (Food Business News)

Ugly Delicious

A unique business practice has been developed in Montana by Farmented Foods — the company ferments discarded produce from local growers to fill their jars with the likes of radish kimchi, dill sauerkraut and spicy carrot chips. The co-owners (Vanessa Walsten and Vanessa Williamson) met in 2016 at a Farm to Market class at Montana State University. They are currently getting ready to renovate a former cafe into a fermentation kitchen, thanks to a grant from the Montana Agriculture Development Council. 

“Every year, so much produce is wasted because we don’t deem it perfect enough,” says Williamson, adding that the company “was founded initially to help farmers eliminate unnecessary food loss on their farms in the form of ugly and excess crops.”

They estimate they’ve saved over 6,000 pounds of imperfect produce.

Read more (Daily Inter Lake)

A beautiful new video from Eater shows traditional makgeolli being made by hand in South Korea. Master brewer Park Bok-soon runs Boksoondoga with her son, where they make this milky, slightly sweet, alcoholic fermented rice drink .

Boksoondoga uses nuruk, a fermentation starter, said to help avoid hangover symptoms, such as headache and upset stomach. Nuruk ferments for about 15 days before being mixed with rice, and then ferments for another 20 days or so in onggis, traditional Korean pottery. 

“Hand brewed makgeolli is more delicious when you put your heart into it so that’s how I started making my makgeolli business,” Bok-soon says. “Alcohol is like a drink with living organisms. I love it.”

Read more (Eater)

Vegan Cheese Matures

Vegan cheese makers are “pushing the limits of those fermentations to create … flavors and textures I’d previously thought impossible,” writes The New York Times food columnist Tejal Rao. She says the “new generation” of vegan cheese is surprisingly tastier than the bland, starchy, mass-produced vegan cheese of the early 2000s. 

Missing from those first versions of vegan cheese: fermentation, a key to creating flavor. Vegan cheese now is also aged and ripened like dairy cheese to develop flavors and textures.

The microbes used to give cheeses like Gouda and Brie their distinct flavors are also critical. Vegan  cheese cultures are now readily available. Aaron Bullock and Ian Marin (pictured), founders of Misha’s Kind Foods, work with proprietary cultures to create cream cheese and ricotta made from cashew milk.

Read more (The New York Times)

Almost six in 10 consumers said they would be willing to change shopping habits to reduce environmental impact, and more than seven in 10 said they would pay a 35% premium for brands that do.

  • Institute for Business Value

Wild Yeasts & Sour Beer

As sour beer becomes more popular, more producers are foregoing traditional kettle-sourcing processes to inoculate their brews with wild yeasts, often found in unusual places. Pennsylvania-based Levante Brewing Co. has developed a yeast called Philly Sour, which was found on the bark of a dogwood tree in a local cemetery and is now sold worldwide. 

“I don’t know if the enthusiasm for hops will ever really wane, but with so many beer options available, there is definitely the space for some breweries to focus more on other ingredients,” said Gerard Olson, owner of Forest & Main Brewing Co. in Ambler, PA. That brewery every spring forages for yeasts from flowers on the property and uses them for that season’s saisons.

The Philadelphia Inquirer calls Philly Sour (and Norwegian yeast called kveik) “beer’s mostly unsung heroes.” The professor who isolated the Philly Sour yeast, “sends students into the neighborhood with Ziploc bags to collect samples, leaves, scrapings from bark, and other materials that might have yeast on them. Those materials are tested for fermentation.”

Read more (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

Scientists in Russia and Egypt have developed a functional drink that’s been proven to combat anemia and malnutrition. The juice is made from beet extract, milk and probiotic bacterial strains. The scientists developed a quinoa bread, too. The goal is to keep the beverage and bread affordably priced and get them offered at grocery stores internationally.

“One should bear in mind that we are not creating a medicine, but a natural, functional food product,” said Sobhi Ahmed Azab Al-Suhaimi, professor in the Department of Technology at South Ural State University (SUSU) in Russia. “However, this juice can make up for the lack of iron, zinc, manganese and calcium in the body. One serving of the drink will contain the whole rate [sic] of minerals. Its carbohydrate content is low. Fermented juice will help to overcome anemia and to improve digestion due to probiotics.”

Scientists at SUSU worked with scientists at the University of Alexandria in Egypt. Their findings were published in the Journal of Food Processing and Preservation and Plants.

Read more (

Leaders in the biotechnology industry are calling fermentation “Agricultural 2.0.” As consumers continue to seek alternative protein and dairy options, more biotech companies are using fermentation to produce alt-proteins. Ricky Cassini, co-founder and CEO of natural food colourant start-up Michroma, says: “The fermentation space is thriving and there is a lot of progress around this technology.”

Here are three expected developments in  fermentation processing  this year:

  1. More dairy-free cheese products will enter the market.
  2. Price points for alternative proteins will drop as more players enter the market.
  3. Regulatory issues and naming conventions will gain in significance.

Read more (Food Navigator)

Ferments from India

Have you heard of idli? This fermented and steamed rice and black lentil cake is one of the most popular breakfasts in India. And now, a chef is trying to make it recognized around the world.

The India Times interviewed M Eniyavan, founder of Mallipoo Idli in Chennai, India. Eniyavan created World Idli Day six years ago. He makes over 2,500 varieties of idli, including a tender coconut idli, pizza idli (sans  cheese) and even a chocolate idli.

The long fermentation of rice grits with  black lentils creates a delicious flavor and has been lauded as “one of the healthiest breakfasts in India.” It’s often served with chutney and sambar (steamed lentil and vegetables tempered with spices.)

Read more (English version, Tennessee Tribune)