Currently sold mostly in supplement form, inonotus obliquus - or chaga mushroom - is a fungus that usually grows on the bark of birch trees and is making its way over to the food space.
“Like most new ingredients, they first tend to appear in places like [health food shop] Holland and Barrett as a supplement, like spirulina and matcha powder, and then when they become a bit more widely known you start to see them in yoghurts,” Schofield said.
Widely available in birch forests throughout Russia as well as northern and eastern Europe, chaga mushrooms have traditionally been used in these regions in tea, as they need to be boiled in order to release the beneficial compounds.
“[This] makes chaga a good fit with hot drinks,” she added.
Norwegian brand Chaga Health sells a whole mushroom powder as well as a blend of chaga with freeze-dried pine buds, which it says can be added to smoothies or tea, while Finnish brand Foodin also with Fair Trade Peruvian Arabica coffee for a chaga coffee that it says enriches the aroma.
In the ready-to-drink aisle, US brand Säpp makes a range of birch waters that include organic chaga extract while Norwegian brand sells chaga mushroom in powder form.
Reportedly high in beta-glucans, antioxidants and certain B vitamins, chaga mushrooms are said to be adaptogenic - a substance that can help the body cope with mental or physical stress.
“Brands looking to turn to chaga mushroom to enhance their products can emphasise the ingredients properties as an adaptogen,” Schofield said.
Manufacturers should be wary when making health claims; however, as the term adaptogen has no legal or scientific basis in the EU.