In industry, lactic acid fermentation is performed by lactic acid bacteria, which convert simple carbohydrates such as glucose, sucrose, or galactose to lactic acid. These bacteria can also grow in the mouth; the acid they produce is responsible for the tooth decay known as caries.

Lactic acid fermentation is a biological process by which glucose and other six-carbon sugars (also, disaccharides of six-carbon sugars, e.g. sucrose or lactose) are converted into cellular energy and the metabolite lactate. It is an anaerobic fermentation reaction that occurs in some bacteria and animal cells, such as muscle cells.

Two of the most common applications of lactic acid fermentation are in the production of yogurt and sauerkraut.

Producing polymers with lactic acid

Two molecules of lactic acid can be dehydrated to lactide, a cyclic lactone. A variety of catalysts can polymerize lactide to either heterotactic or syndiotactic polylactide.
Lactic acid is used also as a monomer for producing polylactic acid (PLA), which later has developed application as biodegradable plastic. This kind of plastic is a good option for substituting conventional plastic produced from petroleum oil because of low emission of carbon dioxide. The commonly used process in producing lactic acid is via fermentation, and, later, to obtain the polylactic acid, the polymerization process follows.