Australians have evolving tastes for new, healthier food and drink choices. And we're helping to bring fresh ideas to the table.
We established Evolve Food, a deeptech food start-up on a mission to transform the future of food and drink, in 2022. Deeptech start-ups work to provide technology solutions based on significant scientific or engineering challenges, using research and development to go from idea to commercialisation.
Through our ON innovation program for researchers, and with the help of the program’s network of experts and coaches, the team at Evolve Food was able to further develop the process and high potential of this innovative venture.
After an initial focus on lowering the sugar content in fruit juices, the work has now extended to low and no alcohol wine (no-lo wines). This is highlighted at the Cicada x Tech23 event in Sydney, where deeptech start-ups will show their wares to investors and the deeptech ecosystem.
Sweet opportunity for Australia
An old Latin saying, in vino veritas, means in wine there is truth. But in wine there is also sugar and alcohol.
Research shows about 50 per cent of consumers want to reduce their alcohol intake. But they want options that don’t compromise on taste.
Anna Tao is leading Company Creation’s work with Evolve Food and says it’s a huge opportunity for the wine industry in Australia.
“We know that people love to enjoy a good glass of wine. But we think they are looking for different options on how they do that," Anna says.
"This innovative science, which has been developed at CSIRO’s Food Innovation Centre in Werribee in Melbourne’s west, is delivering some exciting options for the future of wine consumption in Australia and internationally."
Science behind the innovation
In the process of making wine, sugar is broken down and turned into alcohol.
In her lab at the Food Innovation Centre, Dr Netsanet Terefe has been looking at how to reduce the level of sugar before the wine making process even begins. This is creating healthier no-lo wines that don’t sacrifice taste.
"Our challenge was to find a process that didn’t require the use of chemical additives or mechanical intervention, which can strip the aroma, flavour and taste from the product," Netsanet says.
"We use a pre-fermentation process with the grape juice or ‘must’ stage to reduce the sugar content before the wine making process begins.
"This pre-fermentation process uses specially selected bacterial cultures which produce enzymes that convert simple sugars into polysaccharides.
“The wine making process then proceeds as normal with the sugar reduction in the pre-fermentation stage naturally resulting in a lower alcohol wine without the need for vacuum distillation or membrane filtration that strips out flavour and taste together with alcohol,” she says.
Netsanet recently showcased the technology at the Institute of Food Technologists meeting in Chicago. She pitched the technology to scientists, food and beverage manufacturing companies and investors.
Evolving for the future
The next step is for Evolve Food to develop initial products for the no-lo wine markets. The team is currently looking for co-development partners in the wine industry.
Anna says it's an exciting project for Company Creation, which brings together science, entrepreneurs, investors and industry across the agrifood sector to solve global challenges by bringing investable ventures to market.
“This new technology for food and beverages could have far reaching implications," Anna says.
“It’s not just fruit juice and wine we are looking at. The technology could transform the nutritional profile of a whole range of products including foods for infants and different condiments.
“We are particularly looking at the generation of young people who are looking to healthier options when it comes to food and drink.”
Cheers to that!