Digital Olfaction & Fermentation: What You Need to Know

By Fanny Turlure

While consumers may associate fermentation with everything from the gross to the tasty, growing consumer demands for healthier food options coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic are bringing fermentation to the forefront of the food and beverage industry. We’re seeing an increased awareness of the health benefits from fermented foods and drinks – like yogurt, kimchi and Kombucha, to name a few – with many brands now promoting the benefits of these food items for enhanced immunity and nutritional effects. For the growing vegetarian and vegan population, fermentation also increases the range of options for plant-based food, helping create non-dairy yogurts and cheeses, for example.

But as consumers generally adopt healthier habits, they also demand consistent product quality – in spite of challenges such as supply chain disruptions and ingredient shortages. Consumers want industry standardization; standards that can be tricky to maintain in fermented foods, impacting everything from dairy products to alcohol and spirits when it comes to taste, smell, and shelf life.

This is where digital olfaction enters the equation. Let’s take a look at how digital olfaction technology can help optimize the fermentation process for two of the industry’s largest use cases – yogurts and spirits.


Pass the Yogurt

The traditional fermentation of milk into yogurt is monitored through pH measurements, a discontinuous process that requires samples to be removed from a reaction tank in order to be evaluated, and does not account for a vital part of the yogurt-eating experience: smell. Because of this, additional tools are needed to monitor and evaluate the full evolution of the fermented milk to ensure consistent quality across taste and aroma.

Digital olfaction technology enables continuous, non-destructive measurement and empowers manufacturers to assess odor data and raw materials to form a concrete method for ensuring consistency, quality and reproducibility. This optimizes the end-to-end fermentation process, allowing for more effective and efficient production.

Digital olfaction also helps assess sensory properties when developing innovative new formulations for plant-based yogurts. Plant matrices are typically bitter, astringent and can have strange flavors and odors that are alien to dairy product eaters. So when they are introduced, they often negatively impact consumer interest. As a result, manufacturers will typically incorporate other ingredients such as sugars and fruity aromas to mask these scents and flavors. Digital olfaction enables labs to quickly test these new formulations and find the most optimal flavor profiles and fermentation conditions for these new batches, helping to screen large numbers of formulations. This odor data can also be used to assess shelf life, based on how the aroma develops over time.


Cheers to Digital Olfaction

Industry priorities for alcohol and spirits vary slightly from those for yogurts. For spirits, especially wine, standardization is not as important, as variation is expected by consumers. In fact, it is actually embraced as part of the consumption experience. But while differences between bottles and batches are to be expected, end product quality remains critical to buyers, especially for mass-market commodities.

As a result, manufacturers must be able to monitor and detect defects – such as cork odors or oxidation reactions – during the fermentation process and before products reach consumers. By assessing the odor data of wine and spirits, digital olfaction technology can help detect any spoiled or “sub-quality” goods throughout production, helping maintain end product quality. This becomes especially helpful for optimizing the aging process for alcohols, a delicate procedure during which a very distinctive aroma develops. Using digital olfaction, manufacturers can track odor data as an alcoholic beverage ages to determine the optimal timeline and ensure quality.

Use cases for digital olfaction in fermentation continue to develop as the industry evolves. To learn more about Aryballe’s digital olfaction technology and how it can be applied to the fermentation process, visit: