Kraft Heinz and APC Microbiome Ireland have unveiled a new research collaboration that will examine innovation opportunities around fermentation processes.
Fermented foods are created using controlled microbial growth, facilitated by microorganisms or microbial communities, usually in the form of starter cultures, adjuncts or probiotics. Fermentation can help prolong shelf-life, improve food safety and quality and increase the palatability of foods.
“This research will enable ultimate natural and clean label opportunities to address food preservation and natural texturants, aligning with our corporate ESG [Environmental Social Governance] commitments,” Hennie Myburgh, Head of R&D, Global Growth & Technology at Kraft Heinz explained.
The fermentation process could also enhance the ‘nutritional and functional’ properties of foods due to the transformation of substrates to bioactive end-products, according to researchers at APC, a Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre based out of University College Cork and Teagasc Food Research Centre.
“Research on fermented foods and culture metabolites forms part of the APC’s overall strategy to manipulate the microbiome of food for quality, safety and human health associated improvement,” Professor Paul Ross, director of APC and leader of the new research collaboration, explained.
“APC’s research feeds into industries such as human health, animal welfare, nutrition, infectious disease, infant formula and sustainability.”
APC Microbiome Ireland said it has developed a 'large programme' on fermentation end products, including anti-microbials, over the past 20 years. Some of these can substitute for chemical preservatives in food or antibiotics used in agriculture or medical applications.
Consumer-centric R&D for cleaner labels
While the health benefits that new natural cultures for fermentation, such as probiotics linked to gut health, are on Kraft Heinz’s radar, this is not the project's primary objective, Myburgh told this publication.
“Gut health is part of the broader microbiome research trend that we are tracking, however these areas are not the focus of this research,” she noted.
Rather, the collaboration is concentrating on ‘the discovery of novel bioactive and functional compounds derived from traditional food cultures’, she continued.
The research drive is in line with Kraft Heinz’s updated strategic direction and the group’s commitments outlined in its Environmental Social Governance report, Myburgh reiterated.
“Partnering with APC Microbiome Ireland aligns with our new global technology strategy. As a company with a long history in fermented products, we are very excited by this collaboration with APC Microbiome Ireland as this partnership will further strengthen our research platforms, enabling the next generation of fermented products and ingredients.
“Kraft Heinz R&D are continuously looking for new technology enablers to replace artificial ingredients that are as effective, functional, affordable, and translate to consumer-friendly ingredients.”
Kraft Heinz hopes that the project will unlock innovation opportunities across a range of product segments. “Dairy, meats, meals, sauces and condiments, plant based products, and beverages can all benefit,” the group’s R&D lead predicted.
Myburgh stressed the importance Kraft Heinz places on developing clean label ingredients that support the quality and safety of its products. “The technologies that will be developed will align with the growing consumer demand for cleaner products. As a consumer-obsessed company, the output of this partnership will allow us to continue delivering novel, clean-label innovations.”
APC Microbiome Ireland declined to comment further on the ambitions of the research project, citing the terms of a non-disclosure agreement it has entered into with Kraft Heinz.
The APC-KHC collaborative project will initially run for 12 months.