Starter cultures for fermented foods are today developed mainly by design rather than by screening. The design principles are based on knowledge of bacterial metabolism and physiology as well as on the interaction with the food product. In the genomics era, we will obtain a wealth of data making design on a rational basis even simpler. The design tools available are food grade tools for genetic, metabolic and protein engineering and an increased use of laboratory automation and high throughput screening methods. The large body of new data will influence the future patterns of regulation. It is currently difficult to predict in what direction the future regulatory requirements will influence innovation in the food industry. It can either become a promoting force for the practical use of biotechnology to make better and safer products, or it can be limiting the use of starter cultures to a few strains with official approval. Successful cultures based on modern technology is expected to be launched in the areas of: probiotics, bioprotection, general improvement of yield and performance for the existing culture market and probably the introduction of cultures for fermenting other food products. A scientific basis for dramatic innovations that could transform the culture industry is currently being established.