• Symposium review: Genomic investigations of flavor formation by dairy microbiota

      McAuliffe, Olivia; Kilcawley, Kieran; Stefanovic, Ewelina; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship programme; Dairy Research Ireland; IRCSET; EU Marie Curie Actions Clarin Co-Fund (Elsevier, 2018-10-19)
      Flavor is one of the most important attributes of any fermented dairy product. Dairy consumers are known to be willing to experiment with different flavors; thus, many companies producing fermented dairy products have looked at culture manipulation as a tool for flavor diversification. The development of flavor is a complex process, originating from a combination of microbiological, biochemical, and technological aspects. A key driver of flavor is the enzymatic activities of the deliberately inoculated starter cultures, in addition to the environmental or “nonstarter” microbiota. The contribution of microbial metabolism to flavor development in fermented dairy products has been exploited for thousands of years, but the availability of the whole genome sequences of the bacteria and yeasts involved in the fermentation process and the possibilities now offered by next-generation sequencing and downstream “omics” technologies is stimulating a more knowledge-based approach to the selection of desirable cultures for flavor development. By linking genomic traits to phenotypic outputs, it is now possible to mine the metabolic diversity of starter cultures, analyze the metabolic routes to flavor compound formation, identify those strains with flavor-forming potential, and select them for possible commercial application. This approach also allows for the identification of species and strains not previously considered as potential flavor-formers, the blending of strains with complementary metabolic pathways, and the potential improvement of key technological characteristics in existing strains, strains that are at the core of the dairy industry. An in-depth knowledge of the metabolic pathways of individual strains and their interactions in mixed culture fermentations can allow starter blends to be custom-made to suit industry needs. Applying this knowledge to starter culture research programs is enabling research and development scientists to develop superior starters, expand flavor profiles, and potentially develop new products for future market expansion.