Consumer demand for fermented foods on the rise

6 Mar 2018

Fermentation adds an appealing taste to many foods, but it’s the potential gut health benefits that have added extra fizz to the fermented foods market.

Consumer demand for fermented foods on the rise
Fermented foods are a popular way to support gut health

Fermented foods, like so many food trends, are nothing new. The process has been used for centuries to produce many of our best-loved foods and drinks: beer, wine, bread, olives and chocolate, to name a few.

Gut health has moved beyond probiotic yoghurt and supplements in recent years, with fermented vegetables like sauerkraut and kimchi, fermented soy products like Japanese natto and Indonesian tempeh, and the fermented tea kombucha entering the mainstream. The bacteria responsible for the fermentation process are said to contribute to the diversity of our gut microbiota, which could help minimise symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome and lactose intolerance, according to the UK’s National Health Service. What’s more, several studies suggest that fermentation could enhance the nutritional value of vegetables by increasing nutrient bioavailability.

It remains to be seen whether the trend has staying power, but it’s certainly more than a niche, with major manufacturers taking notice too. In 2016, for example, PepsiCo acquired kombucha and probiotic drinks company KeVita, and DuPont launched a new venture late last year for prebiotic and probiotic R&D.

Fermented raw foods do present production challenges, however, particularly when the aim is to produce them on a commercial scale. It is difficult to achieve a consistent taste, colour and texture, as these attributes depend on where the ingredients are grown, when they are harvested, and the bacteria in each batch.

If companies can overcome these hurdles, market interest is strong. Google searches for kombucha, for example, hit their highest ever level in January 2018, as did searches for sauerkraut, while searches for kimchi spiked in November last year.