|Keywords||Plant Based, Yogurts, Dairy-Free, non-lactose|
|Current development stage||General list: TRL3 Experimental proof of concept|
|Collaboration Opportunity||Sponsored Research with an option to License Research Results|
Fermentation of plant milk is not well-suited to lactic-acid bacteria. The researcher is optimizing starter bacteria via natural selection to better ferment plant milk’s carbohydrates.
Plant-based milks made from soy, oats, and other sources are becoming increasingly popular among health-conscious and sustainability-minded consumers. However, existing lactic-acid bacteria strains are not sufficiently compatible to ferment plant-based products like yogurts, cheeses, and probiotic drinks due to differences in milk composition, like the lack of lactose in plants. This necessitates the addition of sugars, stabilizers, and thickeners to improve existing products. Despite these challenges, the global plant-based yogurt market is projected to grow at a compound annual rate of 10.3% from 2020 to 2026, reaching $16.3 billion due to increasing consumer demand for dairy-free options and due to rising lactose intolerance, dairy allergies, and the need for more sustainable sources of food.
Additionally, plant-based dairy products are perceived as a healthier alternative to traditional dairy and are widely available in grocery stores and supermarkets, making them a convenient choice for consumers. However, plant yogurts only account for 6% of the US yogurt market while plant milks make up 20%, indicating a need for further improvement in plant-based dairy products.
The researcher is using a combination of adaptive evolution and computational biology to evolve lactic-acid strains with desired new functions that can enhance alternative dairy products. The main objectives of this technology are to develop non-GMO starter strains that can improve:
- fermentation of plant milk carbohydrates
- reduce fermentation times
- increase probiotic values
- minimize the number of ingredients needed
- eliminate off-flavors.
As a proof of concept, we are currently working on creating microbes for oat milk yogurt. This technology has the potential to transform the plant-based dairy industry by improving the efficiency, consumer acceptance, and overall quality of plant-based dairy products.
Tailoring lactic-acid strains to plant-based milks can significantly enhance their ability to ferment and produce premium-quality dairy products such as yogurt, cheese, and more. This innovation has potential applications in alternative protein market, the health and wellness market, special dietary needs (low-carb or ketogenic diets) markets, and premium yogurt markets. The researcher is actively seeking commercial partners in the fermented dairy and plant-based yogurt industries to help steer the research and translate the findings into commercial products. By partnering with industry leaders, this research can revolutionize the plant-based dairy industry and provide consumers with healthier and more sustainable dairy alternatives.