“Pickling and fermenting preparations are having a moment,” reads the 2023 Foodservice Industry Trend Report from Technomic. The food trend forecaster’s annual list rates fermentation “The Power of Preserving” as one of their top seven industry trends.

“Not only do these preparations promote ingredient preservation and health connotations but they also allow for unique culinary experimentation,” the report reads.

Technomic anticipates fermented food crafts at the bar, like kombucha, miso and sake. But lacto-fermentation, they predict, will also make its way to the menu, as restaurants detail their preserving processes “to provide consumers with a level of scientific transparency.”

Read more (Technomic)

“Dairy is Ripe for Innovation”

As the dairy industry continues to suffer from low sales, could fermentation help the industry meet changing consumer needs? Functional dairy products (like fermented dairy) and animal-free precision fermentation products are major consumer trends for the dairy industry to adapt.

Functional dairy products are “ripe for expansion,” said Brad Schwan, vice president of Archer-Daniels-Midland Company, said brands have to invest in alt protein technologies to feed the future tech-savvy generation. Fermented dairy – like yogurt, kefir and fresh cheese – are all functional dairy.Fifty-eight percent of global consumers perceive a connection between gut function and other aspects of well-being. Consumers are looking for dairy with simple ingredient lists. 

 “The gut microbiome is a key growth area for functional, tailored offerings, as more consumers are making the link between their gut, digestive health and overall well-being,” Schwan added. 

Consumers are looking for dairy with simple ingredient lists. They want their dairy to support pre- and post-workout goals, energy solutions, hydration, digestive support and immune function.

More consumers are embracing a mix of an animal- and plant-based diet. Fifty-two percent of consumers eat a flexitarian diet now.

Alt protein – once seen as a fringe biotechnology – is becoming more mainstream. Brad Schwan, vice president of Archer-Daniels-Midland Company, said brands have to invest in alt protein technologies to feed the future tech-savvy generation.

“While consumer acceptance of alternative solutions beyond plant proteins is still building, we foresee digital-natives Gen Z and Gen Alpha leading the way in the growing acceptance of novel methods and technologies,” he said in a report on global food trends. “Additionally, the dairy industry is ripe for more innovation in the coming year, through leveraging both new technologies…As consumers grow more accustomed to seeing novel proteins from unexpected places, the alternative dairy arena will flourish with new possibilities.”

Read more (Dairy Reporter)

Natural food sales continue to balloon since the Covid-19 pandemic, but food producers should not get comfortable yet with the wellness-minded consumer. Brands need to brace for what’s coming. With inflation, supply chain challenges and a looming recession, brands must remain resilient in the changing economy.

“Even in the face of a recession, growth is continuing,” says Carlotta Mast, senior vice president of New Hope Network (a division of Informa PLC), which produces Natural Products Expo West. “People are not expected to ‘trade down’ from health.” 

Sales in the natural and organic products industry grew 7.7% in 2021 to reach $272 billion. Estimates put the industry at hitting $300 billion in sales in 2023. The stats were presented during the State of Natural & Organic Industry presentation (presenters pictured) at Expo East, the natural products show hosted in Philadelphia this year. More than 1,100 brands exhibited at the expo, many capitalizing on the growing wellness and functional foods trends.

Functional food and beverages – the subcategory where fermented products reside – continues to be a bright spot in the natural products space. Functional food and beverage sales are driving 70% of natural product sales. Functional sales grew 8.3% to $83.7 billion in 2021, with sales on track to reach nearly $100 billion by 2024. Functional food and beverage – like kombucha, drinking vinegars and probiotic sodas – is the top growth category in functional.

“This is truly a hot spot for our consumers,” Mast says. “People are expecting their foods and their products to have real health benefits.”

Natural products are outpacing growth of conventional products. Over 60% of CPG brands launched in the last year have a health and wellness focus. Natural products are also leading sales in all retail channels – natural, regional grocery, conventional multi-outlet and convenience stores. 

“Everywhere we buy, were all buying more natural products and it’s outpacing mainstream growth which is really encouraging as we go forward,” says Kathryn Peters, executive vice president at SPINS (a data provider for natural, organic and specialty products).

Of note, online sales of CPG have returned to pre-pandemic levels, proving brick and mortar sales still reign supreme. Natural products are purchased online at two times a higher rate than conventional products, proving a multi-channel strategy is needed for brands.

The New Funk

Have you tasted furu yet? More Asian American chefs are using the fermented tofu.

Common in Chinese and Taiwanese cuisine, furu is made by soaking soybean curbs in a brine of rice wine, water, salt and spices. The flavor has a “specific tang, mild sweetness and intense umami,” according to a New York Times article.

“Furu adds a ton of funk that you can’t get from anything else,” says Calvin Eng, owner of the Cantonese American restaurant Bonnie’s in Brooklyn, New York. The restaurant’s dish furu cacio e pepe mein is noodles in the fermented bean curd.

Read more (The New York Times)

Science met the culinary arts in Chicago, at the first in-person conference of The Fermentation Association (TFA), FERMENTATION 2022. Over 200 food and beverage professionals from 15 countries Participated in four days of programming.

“There’s no denying that fermentation is having a moment – and that’s a wonderful thing that more and more people are aware of fermentation and interested in fermentation – but it’s really important to keep saying fermentation is not a fad, fermentation is a fact,” said Sandor Katz, fermentation author and educator. 

Katz was the opening keynote speaker at FERMENTATION 2022. The nearly 50 experts and thought leaders who presented included Dan Saladino (BBC journalist and author of Eating to Extinction), Kirsten Shockey (author, educator and co-founder of The Fermentation School), Bob Hutkins (food microbiology professor at University of Nebraska and founder of Synbiotic Health), Sharon Flynn (founder of The Fermentary in Melbourne, Australia), Bruce Friedrich (co-founder and executive director of The Good Food Institute), Maria Marco (food science professor at University of California, Davis) and Sean Brock (chef and owner of Nashville’s Audrey Restaurant). 

The conference comes as sales of fermented foods and beverages continue to rise. Fermented products grew 7.1% in the last year, according to SPINS LLC, a data provider for natural, organic and specialty products that also presented at FERMENTATION 2022.

Though Katz taught his first fermentation workshop in 1998, he’s seen “a building interest in fermentation” in the last decade. Each year since 2011, “someone says the food trend of the year is fermentation.”

“Usually I end up being a cheerleader for fermentation, encouraging people who somehow think that fermentation is an alien process, that there’s something scary about it,” he said. “I mostly reassure people that they’ve been eating products of fermentation almost every day for their entire lives, that these are processes that their safety has been proven by their endurance over time. But you all don’t need to hear that. I am speaking to the converted here.”

Where Science Meets Industry

TFA aims to fill a niche in the world of fermentation. There are plenty of DIY fermentation festivals, food and beverage industry conferences and trade shows. But TFA connects science and industry.

Attendees at the event included an array of professionals involved in fermentation – producers, retailers, chefs, scientists, researchers, authors, suppliers, educators and regulators. The conference revolved around three tracks: food, flavor and culture; science and health; and business, legal and regulatory. The group of passionate fermenters in attendance uniformly expressed their excitement and delight to learn from experts in different disciplines.

“This unique conference had the most diverse attendees as it included chefs, scientists and more,” said Glory Bui, a graduate student researcher at the University of California, Davis. “It was nice to network with those who were and were not in academia to hear different perspectives in the fermentation industry.” [Bui won the student poster competition with her research on how fermented dairy products can affect gastrointestinal health.]

Producers made up over 40% of attendees and ran the gamut from small to large scale. Sash Sunday, founder and fermentationist behind OlyKraut in Olympia, Wash., said she’s been searching for such a fermentation conference since starting her brand in 2008.

“I really appreciate getting to spend time getting to know other fermenters, hearing about people’s creative processes and experiences in the field,” Sunday said. “I really loved all the tastings and spending time with people who really think about the flavors in fermented foods.”

Niccolo Fraschetti, owner of Alive Ferments, said networking was one of his favorite parts of the conference.

“There were people there that were superstars of fermentation to people making kimchi in the bathtub,” Fraschetti said. “It was such a cool merging of fermentation.”

Fraschetti officially launched Alive Ferments in March and said he never expected the brand to grow so fast, so quickly. Alive Ferments currently is sold in 25 stores in the San Diego area. At FERMENTATION 2022, he brainstormed ideas with attendees and speakers. 

“Usually I feel like in these situations, everyone is tight-lipped and doesn’t want to share (business secrets),” he said. “But everyone was a really embracing community and willing to share their knowledge. There was no competition between the peers that were at the conference.”

Connecting with others in the industry was a highlight, too, for Suzette Smith, founder of Garden Goddess Ferments and Pick up the Beet in Arizona.

“I loved that like minds were able to come together sharing similar passions,” Smith said. (I also loved “learning what’s new in the promotion of fermented foods.”

Gregory Smith, an independent chef based in Pittsburgh, said he “drove back from Chicago with my mind racing about all the things I learned.” He said the various chefs who spoke at the conference – like Flynn, Brock, Ismail Samad of Wake Robin Foods, Jessica Alonzo of Native Ferments, Misti Norris of Petra and the Beast and Jeremy Kean of Brassica Kitchen – inspired him to dive into upcycling.

“I’m excited about the way they made me look at food waste in the kitchen space and how to help utilize waste and taking excess product and converting it into something tasty,” said Smith, who runs his independent culinary service Thyme, Love & Culture with friend Romeo Kihumbu. 

Karen Wang Diggs, founder of the ChouAmi fermentation device, spoke at the event in a session on fermenting with medicinal plants. She said it was “an honor” to speak at FERMENTATION 2022.

“I got to hang out with a bunch of really cool, ‘cultured,’ fermenting people – and the presentations were fabulous,” she said.

Added Neal Vitale, executive director of The Fermentation Association: “It was a privilege to have a stellar lineup of speakers. It was great to get to get together at last and explore so many aspects of fermentation.”

Focus on Food

Other events at the conference included: a dinner with a fermentation-focused menu prepared by Rick Bayless, chef and restaurateur; a mezcal tasting with Lou Bank, founder of SACRED and the Agave Road Trip podcast; a craft beer and chocolate pairing with Long Beach Beer, Bread and Spirits Lab; a flavor analysis workshop with Sensory Spectrum Inc.; a screening of Ed Lee’s film Fermented (complete with buttered popcorn!); and multiple book signings.

Bayless, the James Beard Award winner who runs multiple Chicago restaurants, mingled with conference attendees during the dinner. He said he and his staff enjoyed the challenge of putting something fermented in every course.

“This is the first time we’ve done a meal that is so heavily fermented,” he said, “and we had a lot of fun doing it.”

Courses included a fermented corn masa tamal, beed with a fermented black bean sauce made with black bean miso and Oaxacan pasilla chile, smoked yellowfin tuna in a broth of tejuino (fermented corn drink), and chocolate from Tabasco, Mexico, with tepache (fermented pineapple) sorbet . 

“I was at a conference with Sandor Katz years ago and I talked to him about making black bean miso, and now I get to serve it to him,” Bayless said.

The Fermentation Association was started in 2017 as the brainchild ofJohn Gray, then the owner of Bubbies Pickles. His goal was simple – to bring together everyone in the world of fermentation. Today, TFA circulates its biweekly newsletter to nearly 14,000, is followed by over 11,000 on Instagram and will next develop its presence on LinkedIn. The Association is run by a small staff and a 22-member Advisory Board, including six Science Advisors.

FERMENTATION 2022 was originally planned to be a May 2020 event, but obviously postponed due to Covid-19. A virtual FERMENTATION 2021 was held in November 2021. TFA will announce plans for 2023 and beyond in the coming months. 

The first non-alcoholic wine shop has opened in Paris. An NPR article questions: Will the French actually drink their products?

Alcohol-free wine and liquor shop Le Paon Qui Boit (translation: The Drinking Peacock) opened in April, the brainchild of lawyer Augustin Laborde. The shop sells more than 300 bottles of low- and zero-proof beers, wines, gins and whiskeys. Laborde quit drinking during the pandemic and was frustrated going to bars with friends and finding his only non-alcoholic options were sugar-filled sodas or fruit juices.

The bottles have high price tags in Paris, at 10 to 15 euros (compared with 4 to 8 euros for an  alcoholic version). Laborde says there are  extra steps involved in making a non-alcoholic wine. After going through traditional fermentation, the alcohol in wine is evaporated through a filtration process.

Non-alcoholic wine consumption globally has grown 24% in the last year, according to consulting group IWSR Drink Market Analysis. Dan Mettyear, research director at IWSR, says “This is definitely not a fad…it’s all connected to the kind of big wellness trends that we’ve seen across the world.” 

Growth, though, has been slower in France than in the U.S. and the rest of Europe. He says it’s a harder sell in traditional wine markets like France. “A lot of people have already well-established ideas about what wine is and what wine should taste like.”

But there are wineries transitioning to the production of  non-alcoholic wines, such as Le Petit Béret, a small producer in southern France. And Laborde says he anticipates the flavor of non-alcohol wine to become more refined, as techniques improve and the market grows.

Read more (NPR)

Brewing Boom in Chicago

Dubbed the craft beer capital of America, Chicago has a brewery scene that is innovative and diverse. Numerous breweries have opened over the last decade, with now about 160 breweries across the city and surrounding suburbs. Ferment Magazine says Chicago’s craft brew industry is “one of the most expressive and most exciting experiences anywhere in the world, let alone in the U.S.”

“We have a very strong culinary scene in Chicago and a lot of consumers that have an open mind. There’s a lot we could throw at the market and people are very accepting of the different brewing styles, both old world and new world,” says Tyler Davis, founder and director of fermentation at Duneyrr Artisan Fermenta Project. “Of all the [different beer styles] we could produce, there are brewers in Chicagoland that specialize in that.”

Chicago’s Brewers

Duneyrr (pictured) focuses on co-fermentation. Using craft beer as a base, Davis makes fermented drinks with ingredients from wine, cider and mead.

“It all came from me reaching the end of my creativity in a brewery. I got tired of creating the same format,” says Davis, who worked in Chicago as head brewer at Lagunitas  and at Revolution Brewing. He began experimenting with co-fermentation and found “how you ferment wine is shockingly similar to beer. There are nuances of both, but I enjoy blurring the lines.” 

The Nordic-inspired drinks he produces include his favorite, Freya Franc,(a sour hybrid with passion fruit and Sauvignon Blanc grape must. Duneyrr also has a Moderne Dune line, a sister brand that specializes in modern ingredients and techniques. 

Davis studied at the Chicago-based Siebel Institute of Technology, the oldest brewing school in the U.S. and alma mater to many area brewers. One alum is Dave Bleitner, who founded Off Color Brewing with his Siebel classmate, John Laffler. The two focus on funky fermentation.

“Even with our first flagship gose, Troublesome, we have always been fermentation-focused. Even when we are dumping in a bunch of rooibos tea and pumpkin pie spices into a beer, we believe beer needs a proper fermentation to work,” Bleitner says. “Maximizing flavor from yeast is always going to result in a superior beer. But beyond our focus on fermentation, we are not afraid to dump a bunch of rooibos tea and pumpkin pie spices into a beer. So the dual concepts of focusing on the basics of fermentation while teetering on the border of innovative and insane is something no one else should or can replicate.”

When Off Color launched in 2013, Bleitner and Laffler didn’t want to go the mainstream craft beer route. “We had some crazy idea that craft beer consumers wanted variety from their beer,” Bleitner said. They didn’t follow the usual craft beer formula of launching with an IPA. They started with lesser-known styles like gose and kottbusser. He notes “we really hit our stride with Apex Predator Farmhouse Ale.” 

At 15 years old, Half Acre Beer is one of Chicago’s pioneers of the craft beer scene. The brewery is the third-largest independent brewer in Illinois and now distributes their beer all over the country. They run a brewery and taproom in Chicago. Their best seller is Daisy Cutter pale ale, but they also sell seasonal and monthly varieties.

“These days we’re kind of the older, bigger brewery among the smaller, newer breweries. We focus on hop-forward and traditional beers,” said Gabriel Magliaro, president of Half Acre. He echoed the sentiment expressed by Duneyyr and Off Color – Chicago brewers are a supportive community. “Today I think we can call Chicago a beer town and, no matter how you choose to define that, we show up well.” 

The Next Beer Buzz

Craft beer brewers see increasing competition from the better-for-you, healthier fermented drinks, like kombucha, seltzer and low- or non-alcoholic beverages. 

Duneyrr is starting to specialize in lower-alcohol fermented brews. Off Color, too, has added a lower-alcohol beer, a 2.5% ABV Belgian-style they call Beer for Lightweights. 

Lagers are making a comeback as well. “A lot of old world brewing styles, there’s become a renaissance,” Davis says. He sees “candy beers” – filled with artificial flavors – going away. Bleitner, too, is not a fan  – he calls hard seltzers “fermented pixie sticks”. But he’s found that consumers like flavor in their brews. When sales of Off Color’s Troublesome gose began to decline, adding lime juice revived the drink. They called it Beer for Tacos and “it took off almost immediately.” 

In an era fraught with pandemic shutdowns, retail inflation and supply chain issues, brewers foresee challenges ahead.

“Obviously the pandemic has been a factor, one that is still playing out,” Magliaro says. “The on-premise was rocked and I don’t think anyone knows how that will look in five years.”

Climate change is affecting grain crops, “things we knew to be stable are now being highly influenced by the weather patterns,” Davis says. The hot weather is changing the nutrient level of grains, leading to grains higher in protein. “It’s pretty scary,” he says.

But beer will always find a way to thrive.

“We make something embedded in human culture,” Magliaro says. “Beer is a gathering liquid that has place almost anywhere for almost any occasion with so much heritage to its being.  The industry, consumer landscape and world can do what it needs, but beer will live on.”

“Next Level Fermentation”

“Fermented and Flourishing” is what Whole Foods Market calls the growing world of fermented condiments. The retailer’s Trends Council released their first-ever summer condiments trends predictions.

“These days, fermented foods are an unstoppable force charging through aisle after aisle with a full head of steam. Condiments are no exception,” reads the press release. “We’re seeing tangy fermented ingredients adding flair to vinaigrettes, hot sauces, honeys and mayos. With flavor boosts like miso, kimchi and fermented garlic, these products exponentially expand the flavor possibilities of every summer soirée.”

Sales for the condiment, marinade and dressing categories are expected to hit $2.9 billion by 2024, according to market research firm Mintel.

Whole Foods’ list highlighted emerging and established fermented condiments: Lucky Foods Seoul Kimchi Mayo, Cleveland Kitchen’s line of fermented dressings and marinades, California Olive Ranch Carrot Miso Vinaigrette, Firefly Kitchens Kimchi Hot Sauce and Ninja Squirrel Coconut Sriracha Hot Sauce.

Read more (Whole Foods Market)

Beauty Embraces Bacteria

Beauty brands continue to capitalize on a trend: putting prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics into skin-care products. This “wave of new products” that tout -biotics is filling the cosmetic aisle, according to The New York Times.

“It’s like ‘Star Wars’ happening on the surface of skin,” says Dahlia Devkota, founder of the Los Angeles-based skin-care brand Editrix. “‘Good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria both excrete postbiotics, which are their weapons of war. The goal is a balance of both with no one species taking over.”

Devkota adds that she finds skin care products with -biotics are gentler on the skin. Many traditional skin-care brands strip the skin of natural oils, “weaken(ing) the skin barrier.” 

Some brands are experimenting with using fermented ingredients in their skin care products. Venn, another Los Angeles-based skin-care brand, has a scientific advisory board that has spent decades studying the microbiome. Venn’s Synbiotic Defense Mist face spray uses water with probiotic ferments.

“Because fermentation makes the molecules smaller, the product can penetrate the skin surface more deeply,” says Jeff Rosevear, the head of skin-care research and development for new brands at Unilever. The company’s new line, Ferver, has a serum made with fermented collagen.

Read more (The New York Times)

Three years ago, industry experts predicted a mass retail apocalypse. Consumers were expected to order everything online, abandoning physical stores for websites. The stress of Covid-19 accelerated the trend, shuttering many retailers for good. But one retail category unexpectedly thrived in the pandemic: grocery stores.

“In this environment that should have killed the grocery store in many cases, not only did it not kill it, it strengthened it,” says Ethan Chernofsky, vice president of marketing at Placer.ai, a tech company that tracks and analyzes foot traffic for retailers. “People love grocery shopping and they very often prefer the visit to the store.”

“There’s a love affair with grocery stores,” says Christine LaFave Grace, executive editor of Winsight Grocery Business, a trade publication for the grocery industry..

In the midst of another wave of Covid cases, the war in Ukraine and rising costs due to inflation, “there’s a really continued, sustainable opportunity for the grocery space,” Chernofsky says. Though consumers’ dollar spend at grocery stores has far exceeded industry estimates, the industry needs to adapt to a changing customer. 

Chernofsky and Grace shared their views on the marketplace in Winsight’s webinar “2022 Grocery Deep Dive: What’s Changed and Who’s Thriving.” 

Regional Shifts

During the pandemic, many consumers – especially young families – left city centers for the suburbs.The suburban grocery shopping experience is new and different for former city  dwellers – stores are bigger, selection is greater and the shopper’s pantry space  at home is typically much larger. 

“A lot of these changes really demand that grocers on a regional and a location-based level to say: ‘What’s changed in our specific area? Where does it provide us with opportunity? Where does it provide us with risks?’” he adds. These are not huge overhauls like moving stores, but minor adapting moves “to better align myself with where the opportunities are.”

For example, coffee shops are one of the strongest performing sectors within the food industry. Grocery stores with on-site coffee bars and an in-house bakery create a similar experience for their shoppers. Selecting merchandise tailored for a local audience also creates a differentiated shopping experience.

“Grocery stores are hitting a whole other level of potential that wasn’t possible a few years ago,” Chernofsky says. “It’s a fundamental shift in what we expect from these areas.”

Recession-Proof

Grocery stores have shown their staying power  during economic downturns, since they sell essential products. As America braces for another recession – 68% of CEOs in a recent survey feel one is imminent –  buying patterns in groceries are likely  to change but not decrease.

“Difficult economic environments [do] not mean everything comes to standstill,” Chernofsky says. People may not have as much money to spend at the grocery store, but they’re still spending.

For example, if restaurant spending drops  – as it typically does in a recession –  grocery stores can offer consumers the eating-out experience by selling DIY meal kits and grab-and-go meals.

“Everything we’re seeing to this point is showing us demand has been incredibly resilient,” Chernofsky  says. “The retailer has to continue to evolve and push to innovate.”