A large amount of tofu whey is generated on a daily basis as a waste by-product from the manufacture of tofu. Tofu whey, if not properly treated prior to its disposal, can cause environmental problems such as water pollution, especially when improperly disposed of. In addition, the treatment of tofu whey prior to its disposal is costly, and adds on to the overall costs of tofu production. Our solution to this problem involves the bio-transformation of tofu whey into a tasty consumer beverage using a customised fermentation technology. The resulting beverage has a Japanese sake-like flavour profile with 7% (v/v) alcohol content, and is rich in free isoflavones, a type of antioxidant found naturally in soybeans which has proven health benefits. With its pleasantly fruity and floral flavour profile, the said beverage is perfect for individuals looking for a refreshing alternative to the usual alcoholic beverages that can be found in the market today.
This technology is beneficial both from the perspective of tofu manufacturers and beverage consumers alike, in that it is able to significantly add value to tofu whey such that it does not need to be disposed of, and instead, can be used to create an innovative, first-of-its kind fermented beverage. The team is looking to partner with tofu manufacturers so as to collect their tofu whey, as well as alcoholic beverage producers, so as to conduct pilot commercial-scale production tests, which would bring the team closer to its goal of commercialising the product and its technology.
The biotransformation of tofu whey into an alcoholic beverage utilises a patented fermentation technology, which allows the conversion of tofu whey into an alcoholic beverage with a pleasant taste. The fermentation process, which requires two weeks, results in the fruity and floral flavour profile of the beverage, which is achieved purely through the fermentation process without the use of flavour additives. Besides the improvements in flavour, the fermented beverage also contains a larger amount of free isoflavones, resulting in an increase in the antioxidant capacity of the said beverage. Isoflavones are a naturally occurring antioxidant found in soybeans, and has been known to reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease.
The key advantage of this fermentation technology lies in the fact that it is zero-waste; that is, tofu whey is completely transformed into the said fermented beverage without the generation of any by-products whatsoever. For tofu manufacturers, this technology is a low cost and environmentally friendly alternative to the outright disposal of tofu whey into the sewage. From the perspective of beverage consumers, they are presented with the opportunity to enjoy an innovative, first-of-its-kind alcoholic beverage that is tasty, is sustainably made and has health benefits if taken in moderation.
Apart from converting tofu whey into an alcoholic beverage, the fermentation technology has potential applications in the context of other food production processes, especially for production processes that generate nutrient-rich by-products. Using this fermentation technology, potential commercial products that could be created from such other by-products include other kinds of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
The technology offers tofu manufacturers the opportunity to add value to one of their waste by-products generated from tofu manufacture, tofu whey, and convert it into a value-added beverage. In doing so, this will help to reduce the amount of tofu whey disposed of, thereby reducing the overall environmental footprint of tofu manufacturers.