Kefir goes plant-based with green buckwheat superfood21 Apr 2023
Latvian startup has launched a range of creamy, plant-based fermented drinks targeting physical, mental, and planetary health in the increasingly crowded functional beverage category.
Fermentful, a startup based in Riga, Latvia, launched a collection of kefir drinks made with green buckwheat earlier this year. Anda Penka, CEO and co-founder of the brand, told Ingredients Network that green buckwheat is a powerful ingredient that is largely underutilised in food and beverage products.
Kefir traditionally refers to a fermented milk drink made from kefir grains, and there are very few plant-based kefir beverages on the market today.
“We have chosen green buckwheat as the key ingredient because it is an allergen-free, highly nutritious seed-like grain with strong antioxidant properties that can protect the body against oxidative stress and inflammation,” Penka said.
“In the food industry, buckwheat grains are most often processed into flour, groats, and flakes. Fermentful is revolutionising the application of green buckwheat and bringing [to] the market absolutely new and innovative fermented plant-based functional drinks.”
Buckwheat benefits the body and planet
The Fermentful drinks have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties, the company said, and the base additionally includes bean protein. Penka said that they are rich in polyphenols, including six flavonoids. Buckwheat is high in protein, as well as magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, copper, and iron.
“Green buckwheat protein also shows a strong supplemental effect with other plant proteins to improve the dietary amino acid balance with special biological activities of cholesterol-lowering effects, antihypertensive effects and improving obesity-caused conditions,” Penka said.
“We believe in food’s ability to function as medicine, where prevention and targeted nutrition approaches can reduce the need for medical treatment.”
Plant products typically have lower bioaccessibility of minerals, nutrients, and vitamins than animal products, but fermenting the drink increases this significantly. Penka explained that green buckwheat is commonly used for regenerative farming practices because of its ability to extract phosphorus and enrich soil with key nutrients.
The grain has a fibrous root system that can help improve soil quality, which reduces the need for synthetic fertilisers. It is also naturally resistant to many pests and diseases and is drought-tolerant, which means that it requires fewer pesticides and less water than other grains and vegetables.
Expanded use and markets
All Fermentful drinks are free from gluten, dairy and soy and have zero added sugar. Available flavours are original, chocolate, sea buckthorn and apple lingonberry with cinnamon. Penka said Fermentful chose lingonberries, sea buckthorns and cacao because they also are superfoods with strong antioxidant properties.
Pictured: Fermentful drinks flavours available in original, chocolate, sea buckthorn and apple lingonberry with cinnamon
On its website, the brand recommends using the drinks for cooking and fermenting other foods, in addition to drinking on their own.
“We can ferment most of the food we eat as a part of the cooking process to make it easier to digest and boost its nutritional value. Bread dough, pancake and pie batter can be fermented with a few [tablespoons] of Fermentful,” the brand said.
The beverages are currently sold in retail chain RIMI Baltics in Latvia and Finland, and Fermentful has plans to expand soon to Sweden and the rest of the European market. The brand was recently selected to join a pilot project with Żabka Polska, a chain of convenience stores in Poland.
In March, Fermentful won €5,000 from the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) Food Marketed Innovation Prize, which rewards new and innovative food brands.
“We were absolutely thrilled when we found out that we are among the winners of EIT Foods Marketed Innovation Prize. For Fermentful it's a powerful validation that we are on the right path and this recognition serves as a great motivation for continued growth,” Penka said.
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