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Biofermentation and Genetics Might Benefit Flavor IndustryBiofermentation and Genetics Might Benefit Flavor Industry

July 10, 2006

2 Min Read
Biofermentation and Genetics Might Benefit Flavor Industry

Scientists at HortResearch, Auckland, New Zealand, report that they can now accurately determine which specific genes are responsible for the flavors and aromas of fruits. Then, through the use of biofermentation techniques, they can replicate those natural flavors and aromas for use in the food industry. The same techniques can also effectively replicate aromas from flowers, which will largely benefit fragrance companies developing personal-care products.

"While manufacturers have largely been successful in copying natural tastes and scents, they generally do so either through a chemical synthesis process or extraction from harvested raw ingredients," said Richard Newcomb, Ph.D., industrial biotechnology scientist, HortResearch, in a press release issued earlier today. "Neither approach is ideal. Chemical synthesis requires heat and pressure, so is reliant on increasingly expensive and polluting fossil fuels for energy. What's more, chemical synthesis can never truly recreate nature; the flavor or fragrance will typically be slightly different to that found naturally in fruits and flowers. Extraction is expensive and produces only limited quantities of product, reducing the number of commercially viable options for the extract."

HortResearch notes that biofermentation can cost-effectively produce large quantities of a flavor or aroma with minimal environmental impact. Since the process uses actual plant genes, the resulting flavor or aroma compound has exactly the same molecular makeup.

While the concept of fermenting genes to produce these compounds is not new, the inability to determine which genes were needed to create the desired flavor or aroma had previously stymied research. HortResearch has now overcome this issue by using research initially intended to speed up the process of fruit breeding, notes Newcomb. One of the first examples of this technology was used by the company to recreate the fruit compound alpha-farnesene, which is responsible for the aroma of green apples.

Newcomb believes this technology will play a role in the growing health-food market. "Researchers are finding ever greater numbers of foods and food compounds that can enhance human heath and well-being," he said. "The trouble is, they don't always taste very good--and until they do, it will be difficult to encourage consumers to make them part of their regular diet. Adding synthetic flavors destroys the credibility of any health food, so natural flavors produced through bioproduction would be a huge advantage to the health industry."

Newcomb will present the details of HortResearch's flavor and fragrance science program at the World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology in Toronto from July 11 to 14.

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