One third of the world's food comes from fermentation techniques without us always realising it. Bread, beer, wine, cheese, chocolate, coffee, tea... and even caviar or Coca-Cola, which contain traces of alcohol, and therefore at least one fermentation in their manufacturing process.
Fermented foods have been consumed since ancient times and are now one of the hottest food trends, as they appeal to more and more consumers who are looking for authenticity, naturalness, quality and healthy products.
Fermentation: an ancient process that combines nature and tradition
Fermentation is originally a production and preservation process dating back to prehistoric times.
The fermentation process, via the microbial ecosystem (bacteria, yeast, moulds, etc.) transforms the sugars naturally present in a wide variety of foods, either into lactic acid (sauerkraut, yoghurt, fresh cheese, sourdough bread, olives, nuoc-mam, etc.), alcohol (wine, beer, cider, etc.) or acetic acid (vinegar).
Microorganisms added to or present in food also produce aromatic substances, vitamins and other molecules that modify texture, taste and preservation.
Fermented food = healthy food
For the past ten years, health has been one of the biggest food-related issues.
Indeed, lactic acid bacteria, responsible for most food fermentation, are essential for the proper functioning of our digestive system.
In this context, a range of food supplements composed of bacteria or yeast such as probiotics are marketed.
It has also been proven that fermentation enhances the nutritional quality of food. Some existing vitamins are preserved or even increased with fermentation.
As a result, fermented foods have always allowed us to survive in difficult situations.
For example, the Dutch used to take sauerkraut with them to protect themselves from scurvy during their long journeys to Java...
Finally, we have also become infatuated with umami, the fifth flavour - in addition to salty, sweet, sour and bitter - which is long and complex but also dear to the Japanese and linked to many fermented foods: vinegar, lacto-fermented vegetables, parmesan cheese, soy sauce, etc.
The key role of chefs
Thanks to the great chefs, fermentation is also on the rise. The new bible on the subject is undoubtedly "The Noma Fermentation Guide". Voted best restaurant in the world several times by the World's 50 Best Restaurants, René Rezépi's Noma in Copenhagen has become a model for many restaurants around the world.
In this book, written in collaboration with academics, the chef opens up new avenues of taste and demonstrates how to create original and contemporary cuisine using traditional techniques.
In Belgium, Sang-hoon Degeimbre is one of the champions of fermentation at "L'Air du Temps", a two-star restaurant in Liernu. One of the chef's signature dishes is "Liernu", a vegetable dish whose speciality is lacto-fermented vegetable juice made with raw milk butter.
The chef's Korean origins naturally led him to work with kimchi, then, with the development of his garden and the desire to enjoy it all year round, he generalised the use of preservatives and therefore of fermentations in his cooking.
Lacto-fermented vegetables and company
But it's not just the top chefs who are getting into it ! In Brussels, on Rue du Congrès, a small canteen called "Mile End" offers products for sale, but also small dishes made from fermented foods, such as seafood sauerkraut or tofu nuggets.
If you're looking for training, you'll want to check out Fermenthings. Yannick Schandene, who works at the Be-Here in Laeken, teaches people how to make yoghurt, kombucha or lacto-fermentations.
Others, however, prefer to register on forums and learn for free in a group setting. The private group "Home Fermentation" on Facebook has more than 12,000 members !
In the supermarkets, the most of lacto-fermented products are to be unearthed in organic stores (Färm, Sequoia, etc.) : the creative vegetable mixes of the Belgian company "Itinéraire Bis Gourmand" or the more classic products of one of the pioneer brands, the French company "Nutriform", or the kimchi of the Bavarian brand "Bio-verde".
However, in traditional supermarkets, the market for lacto-fermented products is not very present ...
The market for fermented foods is fertile for innovation and represents very important market opportunities for the years to come.