Fermented foods (such as bread, cheese, yoghurt, sauerkraut, wine, beer, etc.) offer many benefits thanks to the microorganisms (bacteria or yeast) naturally present in these foods, which feed on their sugars and water and release acid, gas or alcohol depending on the food and the ferment. In concrete terms, the acidification of food inhibits the growth of undesirable microorganisms, thus allowing for better preservation, and can have many associated benefits, such as providing vitamins and antioxidants and forming new flavours or beneficial effects on intestinal microbiota and health (via probiotics and lactic ferments).
At a time when consumption patterns are constantly evolving and consumers are looking for safer, healthier and more sustainable food, the virtues of ferments can provide multiple benefits including:
- reinforcing the naturalness of food by limiting the use of additives (reduction of preservatives, stabilisers, flavourings, etc.)
- improving the sensory properties of foods, including those of plant origin, in order to support the transition to more sustainable diets
- optimising the nutritional profile of foods, by reducing sugar and salt content, and developing high-quality products for specific populations (children, the elderly, etc.)
- maintaining or restoring a microbiota favourable to the health of the host, and developing new probiotics.
With this in mind, France 2030 is mobilising ferments as levers for the food of the future by funding a Ferments of the Future Grand Challenge to the tune of 48.3 million euros. This challenge will support scientists and companies in a collective approach to rolling out scientific and industrial projects based on the natural cycles of ferments. Together, they are expected to help position France among the leaders in this field of innovation and give French companies a competitive edge.
In concrete terms, the Ferments of the Future Grand Challenge is a research and innovation platform that is unique in Europe, bringing together French food companies within ANIA (French national food industry association) and academic research of excellence led by INRAE. These two bodies, the programme's pilots, designed the Challenge as support for pre-competitive projects fully financed by the State, for R&D projects in partnership with companies, and as a support mechanism to give fledgling companies a boost. The next steps of Ferments of the Future are already lined up with the inauguration of a platform in Saclay in 2023 and the opening of a first call for research projects in early 2023.
"The Ferments of the Future Grand Challenge is the perfect example of the impact that research and innovation can have on our economic and industrial sectors. I am delighted that INRAE, in conjunction with several higher education and research establishments, is piloting this ambitious project with ANIA. It will enable the development of more diversified, sustainable, balanced and healthier diets.” Sylvie Retailleau, Minister for Higher Education and Research
"By definition based on the rhythms of nature, our agricultural and agri-food sectors have always been focused on innovation and food research. At a time when we are facing many challenges - climatic, agro-ecological, nutritional, economic, etc. - France 2030 must act as an accelerator of breakthrough innovation. This is the reason for the trust placed in INRAE and ANIA and embodied in the ‘Ferments of the Future’ Grand Challenge. This programme, unique in Europe, will combine the excellence of research in food, nutrition and health with that of our agri-food industry. Investing in Ferments of the Future means preparing the food that will be on the table tomorrow.” Marc Fesneau, Minister for Agriculture and Food Sovereignty
"The launch of the Ferments of the Future Grand Challenge is a crucial new step in the development of innovations to support the necessary food transitions and the management of global health, both for humans and the planet. By combining INRAE's research strengths with the expertise of ANIA and its members, we are giving ourselves every opportunity to respond to major issues to prepare the food of the future, both healthy and sustainable!” Philippe Mauguin, Chair and CEO of INRAE
"ANIA and its companies have been working hard to make ferments and fermentation a national priority. It is the know-how of French companies but also their capacity to invest in the global market of sustainable and health-promoting food that has been recognised through the creation of this major challenge. In a very tense global context regarding the production of raw materials, France, a world agri-food leader, intends, with the support of INRAE, to play a role in feeding the planet and producing food that is accessible to everyone.” Jean-Philippe André, President of ANIA
Watch the replay of the press conference (in French)
Mickael Nogal, ANIA CEO (co-pilot of Ferments of the Future Grand Challenge); Sylvie Retailleau, Minister of Higher Education and Research; Philippe Mauguin, Chair and CEO of INRAE; Marc Fesneau, Minister of Agriculture and Food Sovereignty; Damien Paineau, Executive Director of Ferments of the Future Grand Challenge.