My name is Coralie Hellwig, and I am a PhD student at the University of Borås. My doctoral research project is in Resource Recovery and within the fields of social and behavioral science. My own PhD project centers around people and their relationship with waste in their everyday lives. In this context, my research is especially interested in behavioral changes that are triggered by perceived meaning and value seen in activities that relate to waste. I am using leftover bread fermentation as an exemplar activity, but the main interest of my PhD research is to gain knowledge on how participants think about and perceive the consequences of their engagement with waste, and ultimately to what extent perceived value and meaning influence individuals’ engagement with the waste they generate.
My background is in occupational science but I started to grow interest in taking leftover bread fermentation into people’s homes after having worked jointly with fellow PhD student Rebecca Gmoser on bread fermentation as part of my contribution to the Ways2Taste project. Ever-growing amounts of resources are lost when food ends up in the waste. Rebecca found a way of using bread leftovers to grow edible fungi, which is very nutritious and also easy to do outside laboratory conditions. As part of Waste2Taste, I was asked to find ways to convert bread leftover to fungi at homes, as well as collaborating restaurants and bakeries. Moreover, I am working on possibly turning fermented bread into food products, such as burgers, etc. Exploring ways of using fungal-fermented bread in food can contribute to finding alternatives to the status quo of food production. Fermenting a resource that would otherwise end up in the waste is sustainable in itself. But, fungal-fermentation of bread also requires little water, does not take up agricultural space or fertilizers, and avoids animal cruelty. Additionally, leftover bread fungal-fermentation contributes in its own way to social sustainability given that it avoids human exploitation seen in, for example, field workers.
We assed how a burger patty made from fungal-fermented leftover bread was perceived at an event in Gothenburg. We asked participants to rate characteristic attributes of the fungi burger patty and state their preference when comparing it to Quorn and regular hamburger patties. We analyzed the data to assess whether gender or age was statistically associated with preference profiles. This was not the case regarding the preference profiles in the comparison of burger patties. With the exception of age and bitterness, age and gender were also not associated with the preference profiles regarding the sensory characteristics of the fungi burger patty. Overall, we found that most of the participants liked the characteristics of the fungi burger patty.
The results indicate that fungi products from waste can become accepted products when information dissemination targets environmental benefits. This is why I am looking forward to learning more about perceived value and meaning in the context of people’s engagement with waste in ways such as leftover bread fermentation.
Yet, we could also assess that the chewiness and bitterness of the product should be improved to be accepted. Other improvements should target the overall taste in order to cater to people who prefer meat-based protein sources. I am eager to continue my research by cooking with fermented bread and to explore how the issues that participants addressed can be improved, so that this sustainable and nutritious way of producing food can gain traction among people.