Alternatives to sausage and cheese - researchers are work-ing on two-stage fermentation of plant-based raw materials
Veggie cabanossi and Granvegano instead of Mettwurst (smoked pork sausage) and Grana Padano (parmesan cheese)? So far, the growing market for plant-based alternatives in the categories of raw milk cheese or raw sausage has hardly included any products that are fer-mented using starter cultures like their models. An interdisciplinary research team at the Uni-versity of Hohenheim in Germany wants to change this and is developing the necessary sci-entific basis. The focus of the investigation is the development of new processes and the use of suitable starter cultures to enable the production of fermented, plant-based premium prod-ucts.
To produce plant-based alternatives to raw milk cheese or raw sausage, the IGF researchers use peas as a raw material. (Photo: © Mareike Bähnisch)
Plant-based alternatives continue to grow
Whether for ecological, health or ethical reasons: The market for vegetarian or vegan alterna-tives to meat and dairy products is booming. In 2021, companies in this Germany produced almost 17 percent more meat substitutes compared to the previous year, and production in-creased by 62 percent compared to 2019, according to the German Federal Office of Statis-tics. Plant-based alternatives to dairy products are also undergoing a radical change: For example, sales of plant milk doubled between 2018 and 2020.
Against this background, the development of new processes based on fermentation is a cen-tral building block for producers to serve the growing market. With the help of this process, vegetable raw material matrices can be transformed into durable and high-quality products with appealing quality characteristics in terms of texture, aroma, taste and appearance.
Since 2021, an Industrial Cooperative Research (ICR) project has been researching how fermentation can be used to produce high-quality, plant-based products. The aim is to devel-op the scientific basis for the conception and production of alternative products to sliceable, fermented foods of animal origin. The project is being worked on by three research teams from the Institute of Food Science and Biotechnology at the University of Hohenheim in Ger-many: the departments of Food Material Science, Dairy Science and Technology, and Food Microbiology and Hygiene.
From sliceable to bakeable
Two-stage fermentation is used on the one hand to ensure food safety, and on the other hand to develop characteristic aromas during ripening. The research team uses protein-rich flours, including those made from pea and soy. Various strains of the genera pediococcus, lacto-coccus and streptococcus are used as starter cultures.
For subsequent ripening, the intermediate products are inoculated with suitable cultures such as yeasts or propionic acid bacteria: By selecting the ripening cultures, it should be possible to specifically adjust the texture, aroma, colour and appearance, but also the required pro-cessing properties such as sliceability, meltability or bakeability. The cooperation project combines microbiological, materials science and process engineering expertise with the aim of understanding the relationships between the metabolic activity of the microorganisms used, the formulation and structuring of the raw materials and the processing steps selected.