Lactic acid was produced from pretreated beet molasses by the homofermentative organism Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp delbrueckii IFO 3202 entrapped in calcium alginate gel using batch, repeated batch and continuous fermentation systems. In batch fermentation studies successful results were obtained with 2.0-2.4 mm diameter beads prepared from 2% sodium alginate solution. The highest effective yield (82.0%) and conversion yield (90.0%) were obtained from substrate concentrations of 52.1 and 78.2 g dm(-3) respectively. The gel beads produced lactic acid for 14 consecutive batch fermentations without marked activity loss and deformation. In the continuous fermentation, the highest lactic acid (4.22%) was obtained at a dilution rate of 0.1 h(-1) while the highest productivity (13.92 g dm(-3) h(-1)) was obtained at a dilution rate of 0.4 h(-1). (C) 1999 Society of Chemical Industry.