Fermented products bring the consumer a sense of appreciation, which is by and large due to the interaction of the right starters cultures, technology, and care in manufacturing. The starter cultures play a specific role in this respect and for that reason deserve specific attention. Not only are the starter cultures responsible for preservation, due to lowering of the pH or increase of ethanol, but they also form various important compounds, most notably flavor components, which contribute directly to the perception of the consumers.
This knowledge makes it necessary to put special emphasis on the research in the area of starter cultures and their functionalities. Especially in view of the natural biodiversity that still exists in food-grade microorganisms, it is important to preserve this pool of microbial strains for future applications. The product innovator is challenged to use strains from them in his trials to create the flavor or other attributes the consumer demands.
The variation in microbes and their intrinsic biochemical potential is huge in size. This will make it necessary to have a better understanding of the enzymatic pathways in these starter cultures, in order to be able to select strains with specific desired characteristics. For instance, the rapidly growing knowledge of pathways prevailing in these bacteria that are active in flavor formation offers new insights in the required properties of a given starter culture. This should lead to the design of probes to screen collection of microbes (pools of genes) very effectively for the presence of certain desired traits. Moreover, apart from the best-studied examples of starter cultures (e.g., the lactococci) other microorganisms are receiving more attention recently. This will even enlarge the potential possibilities in this field. An interesting time is ahead of us, not only from a scientific point of view, but also from the perspective of manufacturers of fermented products.
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