Functional fungi: The global rise of mushrooms1 Feb 2023
Reishi, shiitake, chaga, and lion’s mane are just some of the mushrooms proving to be a versatile addition to global health and wellness products formulated with functional ingredients.
Everyday food and drink products such as coffee, tea, crisps, and chocolate containing mushrooms are increasingly claiming to boost immunity, reduce stress, and improve mental focus. With a rise in plant-based diets as well as consumer interest in nutritious foods that can boost health and wellbeing, some mushroom varieties are becoming a key functional ingredient for manufacturers to include in their latest product innovations.
The global mushroom market including fresh, canned and dried was worth over $50 billion in 2021 and is predicted to gain a revenue of roughly $100bn by 2028. Mushrooms are low fat, high in dietary fibre and protein, complete with all essential amino acids, and are an excellent source of nutrients. Many varieties are also rich in nutrients such as polysaccharides, peptides, and polyphenols that improve human performance by promoting health and reducing disease. Cordyceps has been found to improve athletic performance and has anti-ageing properties, and lion’s mane is linked with supporting brain health.
Mounting research details the potential for ergothioneine (ERGO) a rare amino acid found in certain fungi, including mushrooms. ERGO has been shown to be an effective antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent to prevent or mitigate chronic diseases of aging.
Emma Schofield, associate director of global food science at Mintel, reports that medicinal mushrooms are emerging as wellness ingredients in supplements and other functional products, but launches are still limited. There is also consumer interest in natural ingredients that deliver health benefits, which suggests an opportunity for mushroom ingredients to grow.
Mushroom coffee blends coffee and medicinal mushrooms to lower caffeine levels – macroscopic fungi used in the form of extracts or powder for their anti-inflammatory properties and to maintain a healthy diet – as well as vitamins, minerals, and adaptogens.
South African brand, My Wellness, makes Mushroom Keto Coffee which contains ashwagandha root, lion's mane, chaga, and reishi along with raw cacao and arabica beans. According to the manufacturer’s website, the wide range of medicinal mushrooms provides mental focus and prevents a caffeine crash.
Focus Fuel Instant Mushroom Coffee by US brand Natural Traditions was included in a roundup of functional food and drink seen at the Speciality & Fine Food Fair in London last year by Mintel. It is prepared by adding water and made with organic instant coffee, lion's mane, brahmi (used to treat poor memory in traditional Ayurvedic medicine), ahiflower (a plant-based source of omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids), and coconut milk powder. The manufacturer notes the coffee improves focus, memory, and creativity and nourishes the brain with adaptogenic lion's mane.
US brand MUD\WTR combines mushrooms with little to no caffeine in its range of coffee alternative blends. Each blend consists of cacao, herbs, spices and contains one or more of the following mushrooms: reishi, cordyceps, chaga, and lion’s mane.
Brands leverage mushrooms’ health-boosting properties
According to Mintel, reishi (31%), shiitake (22%) and cordyceps (15%) are the top mushrooms used in new vitamin and supplement drink launches containing a mushroom ingredient.
Thai brand D Daily makes a wellness drink containing ginseng extract and reishi to boost health and wellbeing. US brand Califa Farms Mushroom Oat Barista Blend and Hemp Barista Blend claims to be the only ready-to-use mushroom oat milk containing 3,000 mg of whole cordyceps and 2,400 mg of lion’s mane. Lion's mane can be also found in US brand, IQ Bar’s Lemon Blueberry Brain + Body Bars which is made with six specific brain nutrients.
Singaporean brand Other Foods makes Crunchy Oyster Mushrooms, a vacuumed dried snack. The packaging mentions ergothioneine and notes that it features “ergothioneine, a lesser-known antioxidant amino acid to protect the cells of the body [by] reducing triglycerides that can cause cardiovascular disease”.
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