Food In Canada

Fermentation applications from past to present

By Jane Dummer   

Food Trends Bake & Snack Food Confectionery fermentation Puratos Canada

Whether it’s used to preserve, build flavour or health objectives, fermented foods are having a moment

Photo © vaaseenaa / Adobe Stock

Dating back to the Egyptians, fermented foods are among humanity’s oldest attempts to preserve food. Traditional fermentation involves micro-organisms, such as yeast and bacteria, enzymatically breaking down carbohydrates to produce carbon dioxide, organic acids, or alcohol.

Fermentation contributes to food sustainability through preservation, safety, and production of food components. The desirable flavour of fermented foods is predominantly due to the acid, sugar, and volatile flavour compounds.

Whether it is for preservation, flavour, texture, health benefits or a combination of these reasons, fermented foods are thriving. Research suggests fermented foods can support both gut and immune health. Health-conscious consumers are still making sourdough bread, creating fermented vegetables, and enjoying fermented dairy. Therefore, consumers are open to techniques that create breads and baked goods with better tastes, textures and enhanced nutritional value.

Deb Anderson, director new business development, the Protein Brewery, explains, “Many consumers are seeking more natural, fresh, and less processed foods. Fermentation is perceived to be a natural process. Consumers are more conscience of the gut microbiome and its health benefits, and fermented foods have a long history in providing healthy gut microflora. Consumers will continue to seek better-for-you bakery products. However, they will not compromise on the experience, which includes decadent flavours and delicate textures.”

Beyond traditional bread

Sourdough bread is a consumer favourite when it comes to fermented foods. Sourdough provides an old, traditional method of fermentation for artisan bread making. However, let’s look beyond the bread application. 

Adriana Fazzina, vice-president of marketing, Puratos Canada, describes, “With over 2,400 registered sourdoughs in our Puratos’ Quest for Sourdough project, we were able to learn that sourdoughs used to make laminated goods (croissant) typically have a less fruity taste profile; and a more pronounced lactic sourness when compared to other sourdough baked goods. But this difference in taste profile is not the main reason why sourdough is used in laminated and other rich baked goods. It was texture. By combining the data with all our consumer surveys and consumer taste tests, we found a consumer preference for a ‘melting’ or ‘buttery’ croissant, and sourdough croissants rate very well on those factors.”


The plant-based baked goods segment is evolving, thanks to advancements in fermentation technology. From alternative protein ingredients to enzymes, the baking industry now has options to create desired flavours and textures in plant-based cookies, cakes, and other baked goods.

Anderson explains the Protein Brewery’s technology is considered biomass fermentation. It is a non-sterile process combined with a proprietary fungi strain that converts water efficient crop side streams, such as potato or corn (golden remains) into a high-quality protein, insoluble dietary fibre, essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. Due to the nature of the conversion process, the protein is essentially inert or not ‘bossy’ in bakery formulations. As a result, bakeries can develop a permissible indulgent bakery treat without compromising flavour or texture. Its target applications in the current format are better-for-you bakery, bars, snacks, and tortilla.

Enzyme technology is a must-have solution in baking today. It provides a consumer-friendly label solution while increasing shelf life.

Fazzina identifies, “Plant-based baked products are becoming better as far as tastes and textures are concerned. This can be attributed to the development of enzyme technologies. Enzymes can replace several ingredients, while maintaining the original functionality in the finished product.”

The chocolate sector

Fermentation is a vital step to chocolate making. Fermentation allows the bitter, otherwise tasteless, cacao seeds to develop the rich flavours associated with chocolate.

“Beans are dried and fermented before being transformed in chocolate liquor,” explains Fazzina.

The art and science of fermentation has a promising future in the baking industry. From the ancient role of preservation to the modern role of creating desired textures, fermentation technology advances are impacting the industry. 

This article was originally published in the August/September 2023 issue of Food in Canada.

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