“We use an ancestral technique to make the product, and the sauerkraut factory where we are based has been in existence for three generations so we have plenty of experience,” co-founder Jacky Biard told FoodNavigator yesterday at the NatExpo trade show in Paris.
“What we wanted to do was take this method and apply it to different vegetables as well as seasoning it differently so that people don’t have to eat it cooked.”
The small-tub format also makes it more accessible to a wider public, he added.
La Note Bio was co-founded by Jean-Luc Meyer, the head of French organic sauerkraut manufacturer Meyer Wagner (based in the Alsace town of Krautergersheim which, fittingly, contains the German word for cabbage) and Biard, who used to work as an engineering consultant specialising in sustainable development innovations.
Using funds from Meyer Wayner, Biard and Meyer created La Note Bio in November 2016 and launched the first products in January this year.
Biard said the firm made a conscious decision not to use the name ‘choucroute’ on pack – better known to English speakers as
the German sauerkraut – because, for French people, the name is synonymous with cooked sauerkraut that is served hot with sausages and cured meat, a typical dish from the eastern region of France Alsace.
“Most of the time people eat it cooked which destroys the lactic bacteria that have beneficial probiotic effects. They also only know choucroute when the fermented cabbage is served as an accompaniment to the meat. We want people to discover these vegetables for their own sake.”
Natural health benefits
“In organic networks especially, people are becoming more aware of good bacteria that are naturally present in the gut and that are beneficial to digestion. People also want to get health benefits naturally through their food rather than by taking supplements,” he said.
The range contains four plain vegetable varieties – carrot; cabbage and carrot; parsnip; and red cabbage – and three seasoned varieties: 'Asian' with toasted sesame seeds and soy sauce; 'Indian' with turmeric and raisins and 'Mistral' with Provence herbs. It has also recently launched vegetable-filled ravioli.
The ingredient list for the plain vegetable varieties is short: vegetables, water and salt. The lactic bacteria develop naturally during the fermentation process,
which can take up to six weeks, Biard explained.
Retailing for between €3.40 and €3.70, the products are currently available in organic shops in the east of France, including the country’s biggest organic retailer Biocoop.
However, Biard said he is confident that, thanks to the French organic market’s dynamic growth rate of between 15 and 20%, other listings will follow.
The Benelux region is particularly interesting for potential export opportunities thanks to professional contacts in the sauerkraut business, he added.
La Note Bio advises retailers to keep the lacto-fermented vegetables on shelf for 45 days at 4°C. “Lactofermentation is a natural form of conservation so it lasts for longer than that but the flavours continue to develop so we suggest keeping it at 4°C to stabilise the taste.”
The next step for the start-up is to develop more flavours. Biard is keen to tap into the current popularity of kimchi, Korea’s version of fermented cabbage with chili, by developing a spicier product.