- Kalsec, a natural colors and ingredients producer for the food and beverage industry, is partnering with biomanufacturing company Infinome Biosciences to develop and commercialize precision fermentation products. Infinome will use its CRISPR platform to create and produce the molecules that Kalsec will then distribute.
- Executives with both companies told Food Dive they hope to identify molecules that could be candidates for commercialization within a year, with the first ones reaching the marketplace as early as 2024.
- Precision fermentation — a process using nature and natural organisms, like yeast, as factories for growing ingredients for food — is rapidly growing in popularity, and is now playing an important role in creating plant-based products or cell-based meats.
Once associated with making yogurt or beer, fermentation has exploded on the scene in recent years as companies look to create ingredients on a broader scale that are more sustainable.
While in its early stages, the partnership between Kalsec and Infinome will target making ingredients that serve uses like nutrition, taste and food preservation. Both companies declined to talk about the specific food or beverage products they are targeting or the molecules they are working with.
Roger Nahas, Kalsec’s executive vice president of global R&D and its chief innovation officer, said the Michigan-based company is not giving up on producing ingredients from traditional forms like plants. Rather, he said fermentation is a way to “give people options” and is a complement to its existing business.
In some cases, Nahas said ingredients can be hard to produce because they are not available in large enough quantities, are too costly to extract from the plant, or take a lot of resources like water and land to grow the vegetation. Precision fermentation will help the company overcome these hurdles in its production of natural colors and ingredients used in everything from breads, soups and sauces to pickles, poultry and plant-based proteins.
"We have some targets that just [don’t] make sense for us to pursue [through] the traditional processes," Nahas said. “It's about sustainability and delivering innovation and functional food ingredients that are absolutely needed today in the industry. There are no alternatives for them that would be sustainable ... on the environmental side as well as availability.”
Richard Fox, Infinome’s co-founder and CEO, said the food space is at the early stages of being able to use precision fermentation to “create any number of things you can imagine.”
He said while the technology has been around for thousands of years, it has recently advanced to the point where it can be used to “produce exactly what you want in high qualities, and very efficiently.” Fox compared it to the internet where key technologies came along that expedited development and eventually brought it to the masses.
“What's held the [fermentation] industry back is that up until now, the tools and the technologies to carry this out efficiently have not been available,” Fox said.
Nahas and Fox both added that while the partnership using fermentation is about sustainability and delivering innovation more quickly, it could potentially be a lucrative one, too.
“It's not just about making money,” Fox noted. “Having said that, there's a real opportunity for value creation here.”
For years, mycoprotein food company Quorn had been the only player in the fermentation-based animal alternatives space. But precision fermentation has been adopted more recently by several companies. Perfect Day uses it to make its animal-free dairy proteins, while Motif FoodWorks applies it to recreate proteins in dairy, meat and eggs in plant-based foods. Impossible Foods’ plant-based heme also is produced through the process.