Mycelium-based ingredient developed for hybrid meat products: ‘We are the next generation of sustainable alt protein’
The plant-based market is booming. In 2019, global value was estimated to be worth more than $11m, with this figure expected to increase to reach around $35.5bn in 2027.
However, for CEO and founder of start-up Mush Foods, Shalom Daniel, the growing trend of plant-based substitutes is not moving fast enough. “Plant-based meat is still only a fraction of the total market,” he told delegates at the recent FoodTechIL event in Israel.
“In fact, animal meat consumption per capita is still growing, and that is because in terms of taste, texture, nutrition and price, current solutions are yet to [satisfy consumers].”
Industry expects consumers to compromise on ‘basic needs’, he stressed, such as health, taste and quality, by offering them ‘ultra-processed substitutes’ made from ‘controversial ingredients’ to make up for a lack of taste and texture.
Israel-based Mush Foods claims to have found a solution in edible mushroom mycelium, which it plans to sell B2B to food makers in both plant-based and hybrid meat categories.
Beefing up meat with mushrooms
Mycelium is the vegetative part of a fungus that grows outwards in search of water and nutrients.
Mush Foods is leveraging mycelium to develop sustainable animal-free protein as an ingredient for the food and beverage industry. “We harness the fantastic power and innate intelligence of mushrooms to face future global challenges and provide sustainable ground-breaking food solutions for the future of food,” noted the start-up.
By incorporating the ingredient into either plant-based meat alternatives or blended/hybrid meat products, the start-up hopes to reduce meat consumption and help industry ‘dramatically reduce its footprint on the planet’.
“We are developing ingredients that can be added to chicken, meat, seafood, and even dairy products,” he explained. Mycelium is a complete protein, a natural binder with a ‘meaty flesh texture’, cost-effective and allergen free.
“Mush Foods’ ingredients will help producers improve the taste, texture, and nutritional values in plant-based or hybrid products.”
The start-up is using a ‘unique method’ that combines fermentation with an artificial intelligence algorithm to analyse and determine and the required volumes of mycelium and growth media required, as well as the ideal growth conditions.
“That way we can produce [the ingredient] in a repeatable and accurate manner…”
Having secured $1m in pre-seed funding in May this year, partnering with Migal and Strauss, the start-up developed its first proof of concept a couple of months later in July.
A second proof of concept developed in conjunction with industry professionals is on the cards for late 2021, before Mush Foods moves into prototype development and IP protection in February next year.
By mid-2022, the company expects to have reached pilot scale, with plans to commercialise in October next year, to “bring to the world the new generation of sustainable protein”.