Mycelium to move beyond plant-based applications12 Feb 2024
As mycelium development kicks off in 2024 with new multi-million investment, product development, and retail expansion, manufacturers lean into launches.
Mycelium, the material from fungi, is prominent in plant-based applications in food and drink. A pioneering ingredient for the plant-based meat industry, mycelium is known for its natural growing process, ability to mimic animal protein textures, and whole-cut product offering that has an appealing taste, without a lengthy ingredient list.
This last attribute, of featuring a short ingredient list, is “something most plant-based offerings on the market can’t claim”, Sarah-Marie Cole, chief marketing officer of MyForest Foods, told Ingredients Network.
Only at the beginning
“Mushroom remains a standout ingredient across total foods and plant-based foods,” Linette Kwon, data analyst at the Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA), told Ingredients Network.
According to the latest insights from Innova, when looking at total food product launches on a global scale, mushrooms are mainly prevalent in ready meals or dishes, sauces and seasonings, snacks, and supplements.
“We believe that we are just scratching the surface of mycelium’s potential for plant-based and hybrid meat applications,” added Cole.
In plant-based applications, mycelium is a primary ingredient for whole-cut plant-based meats – specifically, plant-based burgers, deli meats, jerky snacks, or other plant-based seafood. Emerging names are creating new product developments, using mycelium to make plant-based cheese and eggs.
“Fungi and mushrooms have always resembled meat more than plants,” said Cole. “Beef Steak Polypore, Chicken of the Woods, and Lobster Mushrooms get their name for a reason: they mimic animal protein properties.”
New mycelium releases
New-for-2024 mycelium product developments are already under way. German biotech company Infinite Roots closed a $58 million (€46 million) Series B funding round on 25 January, TechCrunch reported, making it one of the largest European investments in mycelium technology.
Following the arrival of its “meat-plus” concept in Israel, on 8 January, Mush Foods announced the launch of its 50CUT mycelium blends to food service customers in the US. In December 2023, Nature’s Fynd, a Chicago-based food tech startup, announced that it was preparing to introduce what it hailed as the “world’s first” fungi-based yoghurts. The brand launched its yoghurts in Whole Foods Market stores across the US in January.
As for the year ahead, shiitake mushrooms are anticipated to be the mycelium source to watch in the US, Kwon said. Plant-based meat, snacks, and cheese products are expected to feature the greatest number of mushrooms in new food product launches.
In addition to food launches, mushrooms are an increasingly popular ingredient in drinks, where they are marketed as improving brain health and focus. Mushroom coffee launches grew by over 90% from 2018 to 2023, Kwon said, citing Innova data. On a global scale, new beverage launches are featuring reishi, lion’s mane, and cordyceps mushrooms.
Similarly, predictions for 2024 revolve around more mushroom-containing beverage product launches.
Kwon said: “With growing interest in ‘natural’ or functional claims, we expect brands to continue emphasising the health benefits of mushrooms in their new products that include mushrooms.”
Health, novel tech applications, and shiitake variety
From 2021 to 2023, mushroom-based snacks, plant-based meat products, and plant-based cheese product debuts held strong each year, with the number of new mushroom-based snack launches peaking in 2022. Throughout these years, the most popular mushroom type used in plant-based food products was shiitake mushrooms.
“When we look at drinks and beverages globally, sports drinks, energy drinks, and baby meals continue to use mushrooms as a key ingredient,” said Kwon. The emphasis on prebiotics, immune health, brain health, and digestive and gut health are among the main health benefits of mushroom-containing product launches over the past few years.
Mycelium production typically focuses on liquid fermentation, which brews the ingredients in tanks. However, producers have explored and implemented other methods. Instead of liquid-state fermentation, mycelium producer MyForest Foods uses solid-state fermentation, growing on a substrate.
MyForest Foods uses a farming technology called AirMycelium to grow mycelium from a blend of wood chips and other plant materials, resulting in its MyBacon product. Beyond its initial product launch, the brand has experimented with a few new flavour concepts.
“Although we’re focused on bringing our hero product, MyBacon, to a broader market, we are overjoyed by the potential to tap into a broader array of whole-cut meats in the coming years,” said Cole.
After completing three entrepreneurial programmes with the EIT Food Accelerator Network Programme, Bosque Foods, a biomass fermentation company, is pursuing the creation of next-generation whole-muscle meat and fish alternatives using its mycelium platform.
“With the support of the programme, we were able to expand our business, creating the next generation of meat alternatives from Mycelium, accelerating the world’s transition to environmentally sustainable, equitable, and animal-free protein,” said Isabella Iglesias-Musachio, CEO and founder of Bosque Foods.
A developing trend
A focus on individual health and the wider planet’s health is driving uptake and interest in mycelium launches.
“The consumers’ savvy behaviours lend themselves nicely to the abilities of mycelium, where taste and texture are nearly identical to animal products, but they don’t come with the moral implications and carbon footprint,” said Cole.
Future mycelium developments are anticipated to focus on “taste perfection matched with a ‘real food’ clean label”, said Cole.
She added: “We hope that mycelium foods become their category, outside of the plant-based categorisation, as awareness, education, and new food innovations increase over time.”
UK High Court allows Oatly to use 'milk' on packaging
17 Jan 2024
Oatly has scored a landmark victory in the use of the word milk after the UK High Court ruled against the country’s dairy industry and permitted the term to be used on packaging.Read more
Chobani expands drink presence with La Colombe acquisition
16 Jan 2024
Greek yoghurt giant Chobani has purchased US coffee brand La Colombe Coffee Roasters for $900 million, furthering its expansion into beverage categories like coffee, oat milk, creamer and ready-to-drink offerings.Read more
PepsiCo to reshape convenient foods portfolio with less sodium and more plant proteins
10 Jan 2024
PepsiCo has revealed details of two nutrition goals that look to reduce sodium and boost consumption of legumes, whole grains, and plant-based proteins as part of the multinational’s expanded convenient foods portfolio.Read more
Meet the innovative ingredients showcased at Fi Europe’s New Product Zone
3 Jan 2024
The Food Ingredients category at Fi Europe’s New Product Zone featured 19 distinct and innovative products. From fermented delights to sustainable proteins, these ingredients are ready to make their mark in the market.Read more
Fi Europe’s New Product Zone elevates the nutrition of everyday indulgences
22 Dec 2023
At Fi Europe 2023's New Product Zone, eight health ingredients, each offering an enhanced nutritional profile of various products, were on display. These ingredients address the evolving needs of the food and beverage industry and cater to consumers se...Read more
MyAir plans to expand personalised adaptogen products to UK
15 Dec 2023
After launches in Japan and the US, B2B personalised nutrition company MyAir is eyeing the UK market with its white-label functional food and drink products. “Taste is a must – but it's not enough,” says its CEO. “Food has become functional and persona...Read more
Augmented technology is the gateway to new food experiences
13 Dec 2023
Harnessing augmented reality as a digital tool could offer consumers increasingly personalised food and beverage experiences, opening up new ways to see and taste products, according to a report by Canvas8 and Givaudan.Read more
Colombia introduces tax on ultra-processed foods
7 Dec 2023
In a bid to curb rates of obesity and other non-communicable disease, the Colombian government has introduced a tax on various ultra-processed food (UPF) and drink products.Read more
Snack trends, ingredient claims, and plant-based perceptions: Highlights from Fi Europe 2023, part 1
7 Dec 2023
Value-led snacking, sustainability storytelling, and the importance of having a ‘star ingredient’: we asked consumer analysts and market experts at Fi Europe about the trends and innovations that are shaping the food industry.Read more
Consumers want more plant-based meat without GM ingredients
28 Nov 2023
Plant-based meat has been a hot and popular category for several years, but not all North American shoppers are embracing vegetarian alternatives that contain genetically modified (GM) ingredients, according to the Non-GMO Project.Read more