KANSAS CITY — Showing consumers that food processing can have benefits could prove crucial to the future of precision fermentation. At this stage of the “nascent” technology, consumers may perceive precision fermentation as ultra-processed, said Melissa Abbott, vice president – syndicated studies for The Hartman Group, in a May 10 webinar put on by Food Business News.
“The consumer decides whether something is ultra-processed or not,” she said. “We don’t get to make that decision as a manufacturer. However, there could be benefits to ultra-processed if we can prove that there is an overarching health benefit that extends beyond just sustainability.”
She added, “If precision fermentation can align itself with personalized nutrition, that is something we might be able to see as a positive moving forward.”
Only 11% of respondents said they knew a lot about precision fermentation while 19% said they knew a little and 23% said they had heard about it but did not know much in a 2022 survey of 2,365 US adults from The Hartman Group. Bellevue, Wash.
Challenges, such as global food security and threats to the environment, have softened consumer resistance to science and technology in the food system, Ms. Abbott said. The survey found 64% of respondents said they believed scientific and technological innovations can make food more sustainable, which was up from 58% in 2019. Forty-one percent said they were concerned about how novel precision fermentation was and whether it seemed overly manipulated.
Precision fermentation uses microbial hosts, including bacteria, yeast, filamentous fungi and microalgae, to produce specific functional ingredients that often require greater purity, said Lucas Eastman, senior scientist, fermentation at The Good Foods Institute. The ingredients have been shown to improve sensory characteristics and functional attributes. Fermentation processes in general have been shown to produce ingredients with a lower environmental footprint than many animal-derived ingredients.