“We have fermented beet, carrot and mushroom, and are working on onion,” all of which are fermented with lactic acid similar to how dairy products are cultured, but using bacterial strains that have been selected specifically to work with the vegetable bases to enhance their fruitiness and round out sharper flavors, Shellie Kramer, senior market development manager for Florida Food Products told FoodNavigator-USA at IFT.
Available as juices and powders, the line is targeted at creating bold colors and adds a new layer of flavor to finished products. For example, at the show, the team used the beet juice to make a vibrant red hummus and to reduce the earthiness associated with beetroots – instead highlighting a slightly sweeter, fruitier flavor profile. Similarly, in a vegetable posole featured at the show, the fermented beet juice elevated the natural vegetal tones of the other ingredients, creating a more flavorful experience.
A natural extension to the company’s existing clean label business
The new line is a natural extension of the company’s existing fermenting process that is used to transform the nitrates found naturally in celery to create nitrites as a natural source of curing in the meat industry, explained Chris Naese, vice president of business development at Florida Food Products.
“We have been doing that for the last decade and it is a great business, but we had this infrastructure in place and we had all this beautiful raw material that we were sourcing and we thought, ‘What else can we do with this infrastructure?’ And we realized by using a lactic acid fermentation, which is a slightly different form of fermentation than we do for celery, that we could really tap into these macro trends of wanting flavors for food stuffs that were authentic and from recognizable ingredients rather than ‘natural flavors’ that are compound flavors from unknown sources,” he said.
Kramer explained that unspecified ‘natural flavors’ have fallen out of favor with many consumers, who are increasingly sophisticated and want to know specifically what they are consuming. For some consumers with allergies or those who are following a strict diet, seeing unspecified ‘natural colors’ on an ingredient deck is a red flag that will stop them from purchasing the product, she added.
Florida Food Products’ new fermented vegetable juices avoid this problem by listing the specific base ingredient from which the flavor or color is derived, she noted.
While the line currently is not standardized for colors, the company is considering this as a next step so that consumers who want the juices for both flavor and color can further simplify their label decks by dropping redundant colorants, Naese said.
Beyond replacing unspecified natural colors, the line also taps into the growing consumer demand for functional health benefits, including sugar reduction, heart health and sustained stamina, according to the company.
In a white paper recently published by the company, Florida Food explains that by fermenting the juices it is able to reduce sugar and calories without sacrificing sweetness. For example, the bacterial strains used to make the beet juice metabolize the natural sugar content in the vegetable, reducing the overall sugar amount by 10% to 20%.
In addition, the beet juice could support the addition of heart health claims to products because it is high in nitrates that metabolize into nitric oxide in the body, which medical literature has shown can help dilate blood vessels, lower blood pressure and improve overall blood flow, according to the white paper.
Finally, the fermented beet juice could offer health benefits to athletes, including improved respiratory function and anti-inflammatory properties from the betalain pigments in the vegetable, according to the company.