Americans are making, drinking, and exporting more wine than ever before. A hobby for some and serious business for others, winemaking consumes a whole lot of grapes every year (in the neighborhood of 4 million tons in the US alone), and that number is growing. But as with any type of industry, there's a certain industrial waste to be managed. In the case of winemaking, it's called pomace, and up to now vintners have been paying to have the pulpy mass hauled away. Now food science researchers at Oregon State University in Corvallis have come up with a process to make pomace into useful products, from biodegradable fiberboard to a nutritional foodstuff, which is the kind of earth-friendly, business-savvy research from which OSU is likely to profit nicely when the technology is commercialized internationally.
When all the juice is crushed and squeezed out of the wine grape, what's left is the pomace, which is mostly fiber and phenolics. The phenolics have antioxidant and anti-microbial properties, and the fiber makes a good base material for products ranging from non-gluten flour to containers. So far OSU food science researchers have added a powdered pomace to edibles like yoghurt and salad dressing to prolong shelf life without affecting taste; have sprayed a liquid pomace product on fruits and vegetables to protect them from bugs during transport; and have even baked muffins out of a mixture of pomace flour and wheat flour. It's a fibrous food, a preservative, and, in its inedible form (though you probably could eat it), a good renewable material for packaging materials and flowerpots.
"We now know pomace can be a sustainable source of material for a wide range of goods. We foresee wineries selling their pomace rather than paying others to dispose of it. One industry's trash can become another industry's treasure."
Her colleague, Dr. Andrew Ross, specializes in research with cereal chemistry and has been experimenting with pomace as a flourlike product, which is a bit tricky:
"Adding fiber-rich ingredients can change a dough's absorption qualities and stiffness. We're trying to find the right balance of pomace in dough while measuring the bread for its density, volume, color and taste. Commercial bakeries need this information before using pomace flour for large-scale production."
[OSU researchers added grape pomace to salad dressings, yogurt and muffins to increase their nutritional value and extend their shelf life. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum, courtesy of OSU.)]
Most of the grapes grown for winemaking in the US come from California and the Pacific Northwest, so it's not surprising that this value-added technology for the wine industry is coming out of Oregon State University. Its strength in agricultural sciences goes back to its origins. More recently, OSU established the Oregon Wine Research Institute to study and teach viticulture, enology, and business to the state's growing winemakers, growers, and marketers. Wine is big business in Oregon. Consider these facts:
- Oregon has 849 vineyards and 463 wineries
- 17,500 acres are devoted to growing wine grapes
- There are 17 separate wine-growing regions, or American Viticultural Areas
- $3B industry
- Topped the 2 million case mark for the first time in 2012
- Oregon is a popular wine tourism destination
Last summer Oregon State opened a new food science building on the Corvallis campus. Read about it in our earlier blog, OSU Science Building Opens Thanks to Record Donation.
Join Biotechnology Calendar, Inc. next on September 11, 2013 for our 8th annual Corvallis BioResearch Product Faire Front Line event on the OSU campus. For a free OSU funding report and information about exhibiting, click the button below:
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