This special thematic issue of FEMS Microbiology Reviews is truly special, because it contains contributions to a meeting that is yet to happen! As many others, the thirteenth Interna- tional Symposium on Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB13) was a victim of the COVID-19 pandemic and has been postponed to next year. The conference is held every 3 years in The Netherlands, and is attended by researchers from academia and industry from all over the world, reflecting the importance of these microorgan- isms in food, health and basic science. As a tradition, the invited speakers are asked to contribute not only by a talk, but also by a thorough review on the topic of their presentation. These papers were already under review by the time it became clear that the coronavirus would not be contained and that we had to post- pone the meeting. However, we decided to move on and publish the reviews now, when still timely, and we are eagerly awaiting updated presentations next summer.