Researchers at New Zealand-based life sciences company HortResearch say they have fine-tuned the science of gene discovery to such a degree that they can now accurately determine which genes create the individual flavours and fragrances found in fruits and flowers.
Combined with traditional biofermentation techniques ?the same process that helps bread rise or grape juice to become wine - this means that it should be possible for the natural tastes and aromas of fruit to be recreated.
According to HortResearch Industrial Biotechnology scientist Dr Richard Newcomb, that's exciting news for the world's food, perfume and cosmetic producers, who have for years sought synthetic solutions to mimic nature's flavours and fragrances in products ranging from ice cream to shampoo.
"While manufacturers have largely been successful in copying natural tastes and scents, they generally do so either through a chemical synthesis process or extraction from harvested raw ingredients.
"Neither approach is ideal. Chemical synthesis requires heat and pressure, so is reliant on increasingly expensive and polluting fossil fuels for energy. What's more, chemical synthesis can never truly recreate nature; the flavour or fragrance will typically be slightly different to that found naturally in fruits and flowers.
"Extraction is expensive and produces only limited quantities of product, reducing the number of commercially viable options for the extract," says Dr Newcomb.
Biofermentation however can produce large amounts of a desired compound at a low cost and with little environmental impact. And because biofermentation uses the actual genes that plants use in the wild, the resulting flavour or fragrance compound has exactly the same molecular make-up. It is, as the scientists say; "Nature Iden