Sonomaceuticals upcycles Chardonnay pomace into health benefits
“From the outset, our goal has been to create something that is seldom found – an upcycled food that tastes as good as it is good for you,” said Peggy Furth, cofounder at Northern California-based R&D company Sonomaceuticals. “Studies now confirm that WellVine Chardonnay Marc offers all of the goodness of fresh fruit, without all of the sugar, and emerging data on the nutritional benefits exceeds our initial expectations.”
Furth founded Sonomaceuticals with Jackson Family Wines Founder Barbara Banke in 2009, partnering with the USDA Agricultural Research Service and the University of California Davis to explore the potential of the Chardonnay by-product as nutritious co-product. Its branded WellVine Chardonnay Marc first launched as functional ingredient in Vine to Bar chocolates and is slated to appear in Health Vine Superfood Powder later this year.
An ‘underutilized source of PBNPs’
In a recent review published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the Sonomaceuticals research team highlighted the potential of Chardonnay marc as a valuable new plant-based natural product (PBNP) ingredient – one that combines health, sensory and sustainability benefits as a model for developing future ingredients within a sustainable circular bioeconomy.
“Chardonnay marc (or pomace) is currently an underutilized byproduct of Chardonnay winemaking, consisting of seeds, stems and skins obtained after pressing of fruit that has not undergone fermentation,” the researchers wrote. “The 2021 California wine crush alone generated 121,600 tons of Chardonnay wine grape marc derived from more than 3.8 million tons of wine grapes on a fresh weight basis at an average price of $975 per ton.”
Furth noted that Sonomaceuticals has a robust opportunity to repurpose the pressed Chardonnay grapes from the Jackson Family Wine vineyards, which have traditionally been composted or used for animal feedstocks.
Regarding health benefits, the review pointed to the rich dietary fiber and polyphenol content of Chardonnay marc. These bioactive compounds, it stated, boost circulating microbial derived metabolites that regulate gut integrity, host immunity and metabolism. The researchers also compare the high level of oligosaccharides in Chardonnay grapes to that of mother’s milk, essential to building gut microflora and immunity in newborns.
“We have learned that the same viticultural and enological processes that make great Chardonnay wines naturally concentrate the complex chemistry of these grapes into a premium food ingredient – one that contributes to gut health, to cardiovascular health and to maintaining normal blood sugar,” Furth said.
This fall, Sonomaceuticals will hold its second Chardonnay Science Symposium to report on new industry models combining health, flavor and upcycling.
Healthy Vine Superfood Powder
After debuting its Vine to Bar chocolates at the Winter Fancy Food Show 2022, Sonomaceuticals is prepping for a line extension and the launch of its Healthy Vine Superfood Powder, designed as a superfood boost for smoothies and other blended beverages.
“Because of the benefits to heart and gut health, we see opportunity in the supplement space as an ingredient,” Furth said. “Particularly when combined with Acticoa, Chardonnay marc is a good source of fiber and flavanols, so that is the product that we are pioneering as Healthy Vine Superfood Powder.”
The Healthy Vine formula is currently in the consumer trial stage to fine tune the two-ingredient formula that blends WellVine Chardonnay Marc with flavanol-rich Acticoa cacao. It will be sold direct to consumer and through select retailers.
“We’ve set a high bar for upcycled food products around sustainability, nutrition and the consumer experience (taste, texture and smell), and we’re excited that we’ve been able to meet and exceed that bar,” Furth added.