Digesting the fermented trend

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Fermented foods are going through a revival. Growing interest around the potential health benefits of consuming these foods have been the catalyst to this emerging trend. In this article, we take a look into the fermented food trend and take a deep dive into some of the emerging products within the dairy category.

What’s all the fizz about fermented foods?

Fermented food and drinks have been enjoyed for millennia. However, recently, there has been a revival in interest in traditionally consumed fermented foods, particularly from other markets, driven by perceived health benefits.

Fermentation is a natural process used to produce everyday staples, including cheese, black tea, bread and chocolate. However, recently, a range of traditionally consumed fermented foods from across the globe, including Sauerkraut, Kimichi and Kefir, have emerged onto the UK market, driven by the supposed health benefits of consuming these foods.

Natural Goodness

Since fermentation is a natural process, it taps into the global mega-trend of consumers seeking ‘natural’ products. According to Global Data, two-thirds of consumers globally are interested and actively buying products with ‘natural’ claims.

Fermented foods are best known for their beneficial effect on digestive health. As a natural probiotic, they can help maintain a healthy microbial environment in the gut. Around 56% of UK shoppers believe that probiotics will have a positive impact on their health, according to GlobalData.

Further health claims have been made, ranging from anti-obesity, anti-cancer, anti-aging and stimulating the immune system, but the majority of these have not been substantiated by scientific evidence.

Fermented dairy products

Probiotic dairy products are not a novel concept to the British market. Yakult, a fermented milk probiotic drink has been on sale in the UK since 1996, and sparked a wave of competition such as Danone’s Actimel.

Big players in the yogurt market have recognised this trend deepening, launching more authentic fermented dairy lines. In 2018, Danone launched ‘Danone of the world’, a range of five yogurt/dairy drinks inspired by recipes from around the globe, including Lassi from India and Arya from Turkey – both fermented milk drinks.

Kefir

Kefir is a cultured, fermented milk drink, originating from the Caucasus Mountains of Russia.  It has long been associated with health, traditionally used as both a staple in daily diets, as well as traditional recovery food following illness.

  Milk kefir grains are a combination of lactic acid bacteria and yeasts, suspended in a mix of sugar, lipids and protein, which forms a cauliflower like structure. These grains are added to milk to initiate the fermentation process.

Figure 1: Milk kefir grains are a combination of lactic acid bacteria and yeasts, suspended in a mix of sugar, lipids and protein, which forms a cauliflower like structure. These grains are added to milk to initiate the fermentation process.

In the last four years, 15 innovative new kefir products have been launched in the UK, with 50% of these being launched in 2018 alone, according to GlobalData. Companies including Yeo Valley have tapped into this emerging trend, launching a range of kefir products in a variety of different flavours. Most of the kefir products launched have had claims such as no artificial flavours and no preservatives and nearly 40% of the products launched also claim to be organic.

Skyr

Skyr is an Icelandic/Scandinavian dairy product, technically classified as a cheese but has the consistency of strained yogurt. Traditionally produced skyr changes in flavour over time as the live microbes continue to ferment.

What makes skyr unique is its high protein content, with around 11g of protein per 100g product, which is higher than traditional yogurt. This is a product of the production process, where much of the protein is retained, rather than being lost in the whey, as in other yogurt production. Additionally, sykr is virtually fat free, with just 0.2g per 100g.

Skyr has the consistency of strained yogurt, and, as a result, is consumed in similar fashion.

Figure 2: Skyr has the consistency of strained yogurt, and, as a result, is consumed in similar fashion.

According to GlobalData, 16 innovative new skyr products were launched in the last three years.  In 2015, Arla came out with a range of eight flavour varieties. This year, 12 skyr products have been launched, notably, Danone launched one under its ‘Danone of the World’ brand.

Quark

Quark is a fresh soft cheese with the consistency of a thick yoghurt, made from fermented soured milk. It originated from German-speaking and Scandinavian countries, where it was traditionally used in both sweet and savoury dishes because of its mild flavour. Like skyr, quark is higher in protein, lower in fat and lower in sugar compared with traditional yogurt.

Quark is fresh cheese that has the consistency of a thick yogurt. It is traditionally used in both sweet and savoury dishes.

Figure 3: Quark is fresh cheese that has the consistency of a thick yogurt. It is traditionally used in both sweet and savoury dishes.

According to GlobalData, over the past two years 21 innovative quark products have been launched in the UK, with the likes of with the likes of Müller, Nestle and Arla all launching products. Many major retailers have also launched quark products under their own brands.

Growing opportunities

In a market vulnerable to new entrants in the alternative sector, launching new dairy-based products with clear functional benefits for consumers offers another way to keep dairy relevant to a new generation, and to add more value to milk. 

Opportunities for fermented dairy graphic