We review the uses and limitations of modelling approaches that are in use in the field of Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB). We describe recent developments in model construction and computational methods, starting from application of such models to monocultures. However, since most applications in food biotechnology involve complex nutrient environments and mixed cultures, we extend the scope to discuss developments in modelling such complex systems. With metagenomics and meta-functional genomics data becoming available, the developments in genome-scale community models are discussed. We conclude that exploratory tools are available and useful, but truly predictive mechanistic models will remain a major challenge in the field. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.