German biotech start-up Bioweg has created a bio-based hydrocolloid from fermented bacterial cellulose for use in plant-based products.
Hydrocolloids are often used as thickening or gelling agents. One of the most used worldwide is gelatine. It comes from boiled cow and pig skin, tendons, and ligaments, and while it has brilliant gelling properties, it is unsuitable for use in plant-based products.
To replace the gelling and thickening quality that is provided by hydrocolloids like gelatine in meat products, additives such as sweeteners, aromas, colourants and stabilising agents are often added to many processed animal-free meat and dairy alternatives.
Bioweg has claimed that its bacterial cellulose-based hydrocolloid – Hydroweg – offers a sustainably sourced and ‘clean-label’ vegan replacement to such additives.
The company developed the product by identifying two new microorganism strains, which were able to produce a high yield of cellulose fibres when fed with glucose in a bioreactor.
The ingredient offers an improved texture and mouthfeel and a juicier quality to meat alternative products, according to the start-up.
By shortening the ingredients list, Hydroweg is also able to increase the fibre content in a product as well as reducing its calorie count. It is also low in cholesterol.
The company plans to work with companies in the food and drinks sector to bring its product to market. It also works with brands in the cosmetics and nutraceuticals sector.
While the ingredient innovation could prove hugely useful to the plant-based sector, Bioweg must receive Novel Food authorisation from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) before it can bring its product to the market.
The company was founded in 2019 by Dr. Prateek Mahalwar and Srinivas Karuturi, who now operate as Managing Director and Head of Operations.
Since then, Bioweg has gone on to receive investment from the European Innovation Council Accelerator in its largest-ever funding round in December 2021.