Fermentation refers to an anaerobic process involving the application of natural bacteria feeding on the starch and sugar present in the food to produce lactic acid. This helps preserve the food and extend shelf life.
The intersection of two mega-trends
Fermented foods sit at the intersection of two mega-trends that are coming to define consumption patterns in Europe: the demand for ‘natural’ products that deliver added health benefits.
Because fermentation is a natural process it delivers on consumer expectations around ‘clean labelling’ and a desire to avoid synthetic additives and preservatives. According to a survey commissioned by specialist PR group Ingredient Communications last year, 73% of consumers said they are willing to pay a higher retail price for products made with ingredients they recognise and trust.
Fermentation also carries health-related benefits. Fermented foods contain necessary enzymes, omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics and vitamin B. Across various categories – from ambient vegetables to health drinks and dairy products – fermented foods have come to be associated with positive digestive health.
“Growing consumer awareness about the link between ‘gut health’ and overall health and wellness is a major factor driving the renewed focus on fermented foods,” Bobby Verghese, a consumer markets analyst at GlobalData, noted.
DuPont Nutrition & Health global marketing strategy leader, cultures and dairy probiotics, Didier Carcano concurred. “There is a mega-trend around the positive image of fermentation and fermented food and beverage products,” Carcano told FoodNavigator. “Fermentation is a natural way of processing food and adding health benefits to it. Consumers are increasingly looking for this, moving toward food products that are naturally processed.”
Youthful consumers seeking novel tastes
Fermentation also appeals to millennial consumers, who are seeking out novel taste and texture experiences and international cuisines, Global Data analysts suggested.
A survey from the research group found 49% of millennial and gen Z consumers like to experiment with “new and unusual flavours”.
Fermentation is a popular food preparation method in African and Asian cultures. And increasingly European consumers are experimenting with the ‘exotic’ flavours found in Korean Kimchi or cultured drinks like Kombucha and Lassi, which have been long-popular with consumers in China and India.
Fermentation is most commonly used in the dairy aisle in Europe. But, with growing demand for plant-based options and an increased uptake of flexitarian diets, Carcano suggested that the greatest potential for future growth in fermented products lies in less developed areas.
“Future growth lies first with alternatives to yogurt and to fermented milk drink. One can also expect increase demand for a variety of fermented fruit juices, protein and cereals based juices.”
In order to help food makers meet this need, DuPoint is launching Danisco Vege Cultures, a new portfolio of cultures specially formulated for the plant-based fermented products market.
Fermentation also offers fish and meat producers a method for attaining clean label certification for their products without using harmful synthetic preservatives, Global Data analysts noted.
“The growing popularity of fermented foods implies the need for innovative and creative packaging formats that preserve the integrity of the live probiotic culture in the foodstuff, without sacrificing the convenience and aesthetics aspects.”