Kingdom Supercultures CEO introduces biobank of microbial cultures and delves into alt-dairy
24 Nov 2021 --- Kingdom Supercultures, a biodesign food tech start-up claims to have the next-generation of “supercultures” that make plant-based milk and cheeses taste like their organic counterparts.
The company says it has built the world’s largest biobank of food borne microbial cultures starting from hundreds of fermented foods, from which novel cultures are isolated and identified.
“Our supercultures are used by manufacturers to create plant-based yogurts and cheeses that actually taste like dairy, fermented beverages with new functional benefits, and to substitute for artificial chemicals and preservatives, Kendall Dabaghi, co-founder and CEO at Kingdom Supercultures tells FoodIngredientsFirst.
Reaching for nutritional parity
While plant-based diets are on the rise, some alternative milks and cheeses contain unhealthy fillers, have unappealing aftertastes, or taste far from their dairy and meat-based counterparts.
For example, Atura Proteins-commissioned research recently revealed that F&B manufacturers are 56% more likely to invest their NPD budgets in plant-based products next year.
“Plant-Forward” is Innova Market Insights’ number two Top Trend for this year. The accelerated demand for new plant-based formats and more sophisticated alternatives is predicted for upcoming product launches.
For 2022, “Plant-Based: The Canvas for Innovation” has been crowned as the number two Top Trend.
Kingdom Supercultures specializes in developing ingredients using natural microbial cultures that mimic and replace chemical ones. Their technology identifies specific molecules that adjust taste or smell.
At present, the plant-based sector faces two main challenges; reaching nutritional parity with animal-based products and matching the taste and texture of animal-based products.
“Currently, plant-based manufacturers add artificial chemicals and masking agents to try to improve the sensory properties of their products. This leads to an end product that is no longer natural or healthy,” Dabaghi explains.
Supercultures are novel combinations of naturally occurring microbes in food that hold the potential for improving the taste and texture of plant-based products, specifically plant proteins. By naturally fermenting plant substrates, “supercultures” yield a final product without plant off-flavors and without artificial additives.
“Kingdom’s platform rearranges these basic microbial isolates into new communities, which together yield powerful functionalities not present in their individual forms,” outlines Dabaghi.
Cultures of the future
Using advanced technology, Kingdom Supercultures can create shelf-stable kombuchas, plant-based yogurt and cheese that mimics real dairy.
“We have built a large bank of individual culture components already in the food system – tens of thousands of individual microbial strains – the largest in the world,” says Ravi Sheth, co-founder and CSO of Kingdom Supercultures.
The company focuses on diversity of microbial cultures and their sources. They focus on microbes already growing on plant-based sources including plants, nuts, seeds and grains.
This means that our collection spans a set of unprecedented diversity and therefore has unique application to a wide range of products.
“We utilize modern computational and data science approaches and analytical measurement to combine these cultures in specific and intentional combinations to drive new consumer benefits in products,” explains Sheth.
Starter cultures versus supercultures
Supercultures fall under two main product types. The first is the “starter culture,” lyophilized live cultures used for fermentation. It can transform a base into something entirely new. The second is “fermentates,” inactive fermentation material that elicit an active output.
Supercultures are not individual single chemical molecules but act in a complex manner.
“Ultimately, we learn from nature and translate these natural biological processes into modern consumer products,” adds Sheth.
Custom raw inputs
In the last century, chemical additives have been added to F&B and beauty and personal care products to modify taste, texture and functional properties. These additives have formed the basis of the modern consumer packaged goods industry.
Dabaghi says “supercultures” are able to deliver on the same end objectives as chemical additives.
“Our supercultures are custom-designed for the raw inputs and production processes This enables our partners to deliver end-products with superior tastes and more efficient production timelines,” he highlights.
Kingdom Supercultures face two primary challenges in its R&D work partly because the design space is nearly infinite. Computational and machine learning tools make the selection quick and efficient.
“First, we face a very large combinatorial design problem. We have tens of thousands of unique cultures in our catalog and for any given project, our goal is to find and take a small subset of them to make a new ingredient for our customers,” Sheth further explains.
The company does not use cultures to make single molecules at high titers like typical biodesign approaches but delivers end-to-end consumer benefits such as new tastes, flavors and improved functional product performance.
It also overcomes this challenge by building out in class analytical capacities that allows them to design and validate products across taste, flavor and impacting microbiomes, Sheth comments.
Globally, consumers are searching beyond vegan claims for plant-based produce leading to increased pressure for manufacturers to innovate with trusted ingredients.
By Inga de Jong
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