Fermentation has played a role in food preparation and preservation for thousands of years. Recent renewed consumer interest in packaged fermented foods and beverages has led to an explosion of products that improve gut health and overall wellness.
As a result, many food manufacturers are accelerating innovative product development plans to introduce fermented products on store shelves and restaurant menus.
What Are Fermented Foods?
Fermenting food requires a source of sugar and a bacterial culture. Fermentation is an anaerobic chemical process that extracts energy without oxygen. As microbes convert sugar into alcohol or acid, they create adenosine triphosphate, the compound they need to survive. The byproducts of this process are carbon dioxide and lactic acid, which can lengthen the product’s shelf life and create an appealing flavor.
Some examples of fermented foods and beverages are:
- Dairy Fermentation
- Vegetable Fermentation
- Fermented Beverages
Food engineers are constantly exploring ways to create different flavor profiles or unique products by combining different sugars and bacteria. The addition of herbs, spices and salts can also enhance results.
The Health Benefits of Fermented Foods
There is substantial and growing evidence to support the idea of fermented products as health foods. Fermented milk products like yogurt, for example, have been shown to reduce health risks associated with type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and decreased brain activity.
In conjunction with a healthy diet, the live microbes in fermented foods are thought to help regulate glucose and blood pressure, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Fermentation vs. Probiotics
Not all fermented foods and beverages have the same microbes or health benefits. Products exposed to high pressure or high heat, including beer, will not have live bacteria (probiotics), making it ill-suited to promote or improve active digestion.
Related: The Benefits of Functional Foods
Why and How Fermentation Is Used in the Food Industry
The fermentation process imparts a unique flavor profile that consumers love.
Today, the rising interest in fermented foods is almost entirely based on health benefits. The renewed consumer focus on health and wellness, and digestive health in particular, positions fermented foods as a must-have product offering for successful brands. Thus, the application of fermentation in the food industry continues to gain popularity.
Fermented Food and Ingredients Market Growth
As manufacturers have adapted to meet changing consumer tastes, the fermented food and drinks market has experienced rapid growth. Globally, the fermented foods market reached a 2021 valuation of $575.6 billion, with US retail sales registering $11 billion. Nearly 15% of American consumers say they actively include fermented foods in their diets to improve digestive health. Kombucha is the top-selling fermented product in the US.
The fermented food market size is expected to grow faster than the wider market, with a forecast compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.6% through 2032.
Investors are racing to help brands capture substantial market share. In 2020, fermentation companies raised a record-breaking $435 million to expand infrastructure and accelerate engineering projects. By 2022, that figure nearly doubled to $842 million. Even based on conservative revenue estimates, those investments appear to be sound.
Meet Consumer Demand with Fermentation Ingredients from Tilley
Manufacturers are meeting – and exceeding – consumer expectations with high-quality and flavorful products. Tilley is supporting those efforts with reliable ingredients and custom formulation services. Our experience and resources help shape new ingredients and process solutions to ensure the best possible products make it to store shelves. To learn more about how we’re positioned to help you formulate and secure ingredients for your fermented products, speak with a Tilley representative today!