The Summer of Innovation: How to get bacon out of spent coffee grounds, and other topics

August 8, 2016 |

BD TS 080916 bacon smI think it might have been a Kennedy who remarked one time:

Some people see used coffee grounds and say, yecch.
Other people dream of bacon flavoring and say, why not?

If you’ve wondered ever how to take some of the most unloved forms of food waste — old coffee grounds, spent grape pomace (the stems, skin, pulp, seeds. leftover after juice pressing) and turn them into something far more valuable and exotic than, say, organic mulch — well, your time has come.

Those Missoula Masters of Metamorphosis, Blue Marble Biomaterials, have released a highly sought after U.S. and E.U. Natural version of bacon dithiazine (bacon flavor ingredient) for use in food and beverage applications. Made from the above raw materials.

For those in the trade, it replaces JECFA (Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives) flavor 1048, 2,4,6-triisobutyl-5,6-dihydro-4H-1,3,5-dithiazine

“Yes, you heard me right,” Colby Underwood, Co-CEO and Chief Business Officer told The Digest. “The flavor and aroma of bacon, from plants,” said Underwood.

This product is manufactured in Missoula, Montana USA utilizing Blue Marble’s proprietary, non-GMO fermentation technology and is certified vegan and kosher.

“Building on the launch of our third party verified, U.S. and E.U. natural ester product line, we are excited to announce that bacon dithiazine is now available for purchase,”  Underwood said. “We are delivering what the industry is searching for; 100% verified natural, cost competitive alternatives to petroleum derived ingredients and other so-called “natural” products.”

Making just about anything from anything

These days, the line between meats and plants are getting sort of fuzzy.

Impossible Foods is fermenting meats from biobased raw materials. Muufri is making cow’s milk from the same types of inputs, by passing the dairy cow. Modern Meadow is fermenting real leather from real cow cells, but not raising a cow in the process for slaughter. And we have the innovations represented by Blue Marble Bio’s technology.

Is it meat, is it milk, is it leather, is it bacon? In the technical performance sense, absolutely yes. They taste, feel and perform the same. Chemically, they are the same.

But, no cattle for those burgers or leathers, no cow for that milk, no pig for this bacon flavor. And no petroleum either. Can you eat a burger that is meat, if no cattle were raised for slaughter in the process? If, ultimately, you are simply ingesting the same basis inputs as a strict vegan?

Put it this way, if you can’t eat bacon flavor made from spent coffee grounds, what are the ethical grounds for drinking coffee? If you can’t consume a burger fermented from sugars, what are the ethical grounds for eating fruit?

Ethics, it appears, has led to advances in the lab that give us choices beyond our current ethical dilemmas. They lead us to others, in some cases. Where technologies are based on cheap sugars, biodiversity may come under stress in the rush to convert land for sugar production.

But then you have the Blue Marble Biomaterials’ approach. If you can’t make bacon flavor from grape pomace, what’s the ethical argument for drinking wine, or grape juice?

What’s the Critical Takeaway?

Bacon is at the heart of this story, but it’s not the point.

The point is the precision and technical mastery which biotechnology is now bringing to the production of high-value flavors and fragrances. It’s the F&F sector, and it’s going through a revolution, in real time. And what can be converted into bacon dithiazine can be made into a host of other targets. Using material that is currently, and unhappily, landfilled.

It’s a demonstration

For now, Blue Marble Bio has confirmed they can make it, Next steps are to prove they can make it reliably and affordably. And that there’s a customer out there for offtake purposes. Sustainably, they’ve nailed that already.

Where will it go?

On the product side, there are thousands of established flavoring agents — and we generally have produced those because a) they are functional and b) we had the technology. So, there are drop-ins to pursue, but also novel compounds that provide a better way to get the same flavor result.

Some are pretty simple compounds. Limonene, for example – the citrus flavor. Some lean towards the more complex — from pear flavors like ethyl decadienoate through the afore-mentioned bacon dithiazine.

On the feedstock side, it could get even more interesting. There’s a lot of food waste out there available at industrial scale. For example, spent distillers grains from breweries.

The Star Trek replicator

In the 24th century, the creators of Star Trek assure us that the manufacture, transport and storage of food materials for long-range space missions is too bulky and too costly. So, they have the replicator — simply mention your target and the Replicator makes it, on the spot.

To accomplish something so precise, you’d need a uniform raw material and some pretty cool technology. Blue Marble Bio has taken us a new step down that road.

Tea, Earl Grey, hot, please.

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