Ahh, the magic of fermentation.
Over the past couple of years, the age-old process that brought us beer, soy sauce and kombucha has become suddenly sexy as it’s taken on new power through innovative startups trying to reinvent our food system.
While old-school fermentation continues to be a highly scaled workhorse, a new group of startups now use fermentation in innovative new ways that allow them to replicate proteins and other food compounds normally sourced from animals. In other words, they’re making animal products without the actual animal.
The end-result is products like Perfect Day’s ice cream or New Culture’s cheese that replicate the taste and experience of food produced the old fashioned way, on farms and through industrial production, without the need for animals.
And now, the miracle of precision fermentation is bringing us a new analog for a food that is particularly in peril: bee honey.
A startup by the name of Melibio wants to create bee honey using microbial fermentation technology. The “honey,” which company CEO Darko Mandich says “resembles the taste, the texture, and the viscosity of bee-made honey,” will be made by replicating the process used to create bee honey.
Why a honey alternative? As most know at this point, the honey bee population has been in precipitous decline over the past decade. Climate change, pesticides and, yes, murder hornets all continue to pose a threat to honey bees and the $7 billion honey industry.
Of course, creating biosynthesized honey won’t replace honey bees themselves. The declining bee population remains a problem, especially given the larger role of bees as pollinators To help us there, we may have to rely on technology Hail Maries like robotic bee drones or bubbles to solve the problem.
So how soon will it before we can taste Melibio’s bee honey without the bee? According to Mandich, the company plans to launch their honey replacement sometime next year and that 14 companies have signed letters of intent to use the product.