Custom-designed yeast can make food healthier, says biotech start-up

By Niamh Michail

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Fascinadora
© GettyImages/Fascinadora

Related tags Biotechnology Yeast start-ups reformulation Clean label

A Brazilian biotech start-up is custom-designing novel, natural yeast strains that can be used to make plant proteins, replace artificial additives and boost the bioavailability of minerals.

BioInFood, located in Campinas in Brazil’s Sao Paulo state, does not produce yeast itself but uses biotechnology to “custom-design” ​the microorganism according to manufacturers’ specific needs.

Founded by three entrepreneurs with extensive experience in the food industry - including Gabriel Galembeck who led Brazilian brewery Ambev’s innovation and R&D center for 10 years - the early stage start-up is already working with manufacturers from diverse sectors including biofuels and bakery, and is talks with clients producing animal feed, coffee, and fermented drinks.

“The biotechnological platform we work with is the microorganisms we have in our collection. Using modern genetic techniques associated with production process design, we can generate solutions addressing several needs,”​ said partner Gabriel ​Galembeck, who co-founded the company in 2018 along with yeast geneticist Gleidson Silva Teixeira and food scientist Osmar Carvalho-Netto. The three entrepreneurs founded the start-up using their own capital.

“We realized that there was considerable potential in joining our knowledge, forming a company able to work from genetics to industrial processing, maximizing results using microorganisms, especially yeast,” ​he said.

According to Galembeck, yeast’s functional ability to express heterologous proteins, such as collagen and albumins, allowing manufacturers to produce plant-based proteins offers the most potential to change the food industry. However, the microorganism has a range of functionalities and can be used as an ingredient or processing aid to make products healthier or more clean label.

'A powerhouse of vitamins'

“We can use them to customize flavor profile, tolerate harsh processing conditions such as extreme temperature and high osmotic pressure; absorb and create critical nutritional ingredients, such as vitamins and minerals,” ​he told FoodNavigator-LATAM.

Yeast is a powerhouse of vitamins. [They] can also replace artificial additives used for flavoring, producing natural flavors and delivering it to your product.

The ingredient can also absorb certain metals and make them more bioavailable. There are useful metals, and there are harmful metals,” ​Galembeck explained. “We usually want to avoid the ingestion of heavy metals such as plumb, mercury, and cadmium. Still, we do need several micronutrients that are metals like selenium, iron, copper, zinc, and fluoride, among many others. There are other macronutrients such as calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium that are also classified as metals.”

Non-GMO and GMO strains available

For food applications, the company usually creates new natural yeast strains using classical breeding but can also use high throughput techniques that accelerate the selection of the desired genotype among all the new strains. It can also, if needed, create genetically modified strains.

The company said it is currently focusing on the Brazilian market but can apply its model to any client worldwide. 

BioInFood also offers consulting services to help food manufacturers understand their own production processes and how to optimize the yeast they currently use in their formulations.  

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