‘We have aggressive projections for the region’: Mushroom protein supplier MycoTechnology eyes European growth

By Oliver Morrison

- Last updated on GMT

Mushroom mycelia can improve mouthfeel and taste in protein beverages and dairy alternatives, and also enable a higher protein content, according to MycoTechnology. Image: Getty/Kichigin
Mushroom mycelia can improve mouthfeel and taste in protein beverages and dairy alternatives, and also enable a higher protein content, according to MycoTechnology. Image: Getty/Kichigin

Related tags Fermentation mushrooms mushroom mycelia

The US-based company has built a proprietary fermentation platform which makes functional ingredients using mycelium, the fibrous root structure of mushrooms.

It now has aggressive scaling plans in Europe after securing a funding injection of $85 million (€78 million).

The Series E fundraise was led by a group affiliated with sovereign wealth fund the Oman Investment Authority (OIA). Participants include Nourish Ventures (Griffith Foods’ venture capital group), Rage Capital, Alphacy Investment, Siddhi Capital, S2G Ventures, Tyson Ventures, Continental Grain Company, Bunge Ventures, Maple Leaf Foods, Evolution VC Partners, and Gaingels.

It represents the company’s largest single round of financing since it was established in 2013, bringing total fundraising to-date to more than $200 million.

The new investment will allow MycoTechnology to grow its proprietary fermentation platform to bring its product portfolio to more consumers globally, with a focus on expanding in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

“This fundraise is a validation of the potential of our breakthrough proposition and next-generation ingredients,”​ said Alan Hahn, CEO and Co-Founder of MycoTechnology. “It will be a catalyst to accelerate our growth further and faster and drive our plans to add more new-to-the-world ingredients from the fungal kingdom.”

‘Shroom boom’

The company’s current ingredient portfolio includes FermentIQ, a fermented plant-based protein, and ClearIQ, a range of bitter blocking and flavour modulating ingredients.

The company says it leverages a proprietary mushroom fermentation process to ‘harness the natural power of mycelia and create transformative food ingredients’. It has prior commercial success partnering with emerging and major brands.

“Mycelia are the powerful, invisible root system of the mushrooms,”​ explained Lisa Wetstone, Director, Innovation and Growth Strategy at MycoTechnology. “By combining age-old processes with modern-day science, MycoTechnology has developed a range of solutions that address sugar reduction, sustainable protein, nutrient density, and more.”

The company’s FermentIQ protein is a blend of pea and rice protein fermented with shiitake mushroom mycelia. “This process results in a better-tasting, more digestible, and more functional plant protein,”​ Wetstone told FoodNavigator, “enabling the formulation of a next generation of craveable plant-based and protein-fortified products.”

Through the mycelium, a fungus secretes an array of enzymes into its environment, which break down biological polymers into absorbable material, as well as leaving behind beneficial metabolites, she explained.

“These attributes of mushroom mycelia enable our unique fermentation processing to improve the physical properties of our pea and rice protein blend – including taste, aroma, solubility, and colour​.” 

The FermentIQ protein can be used in multiple applications from snacks, baked goods and protein beverages to meat and dairy alternatives. It can also be supplied as a spray-dried powder, as a protein crisp for products such as bars, or as a texturized product.

The FermentIQ plant protein solutions offer significantly improved sensory attributes compared to unfermented plant proteins, insisted Wetstone. “As a result, developers can meet consumer demand for products with higher protein content without sacrificing on taste.

"Beyond the improvement of physical attributes, the natural enzymatic process of mycelial fermentation alters the complex structure of the proteins, increasing solubility, improving digestibility and reducing anti-nutrient content.”

But isn’t all the good stuff in mushrooms in the fruiting body, not the mycelium? “It is a common misconception that the fruiting body of mushrooms is more nutritious and interesting than the mycelia,” ​responded Wetstone.

The FermentIQ TXP texturized protein solution, he said, offers superior meat-like texture and high water and oil holding and offers a complete plant-based protein with improved mouthfeel and great taste for protein beverages and dairy alternatives, enabling higher protein content with a smooth and creamy mouthfeel.

“In plant-based cheese in particular,”​ added Wetstone, “we have uncovered that our fermentation process improves stretch, melt, and shred, allowing formulators to get closer to the holy-grail of plant-based dairy.”​  

‘We believe the opportunity is substantial’

The company believes that in Europe, plant-based meat and dairy continue to grow rapidly, creating enormous market opportunity for established and new brands alike.

“We have aggressive projections for the region,”​ revealed Wetstone. “We believe the opportunity is substantial. As market competition continues to heat up, our portfolio will enable the next wave of plant protein innovation.”

The company also believes there is substantial opportunity in Europe for mushroom-derived natural flavour.

ClearIQ is a natural extract from the liquid fermentation of a proprietary mushroom mycelia. This platform of natural flavours interacts directly with taste receptors on the tongue to provide a broad-spectrum bitter blocking, flavour modulation and flavour clarification, we were told. “It is highly efficacious in plant-based meat, dairy, and protein beverages; sugar- and salt- reduced products; and functional products featuring desirable ingredients with flavour challenges.”  

Wetstone added that fermentation’s long tradition can help it find favour with Europe’s consumers. “Fermentation is the oldest food processing technique there is. It’s used to make beer, bread, kombucha, and more. Our platform is the next generation of fermentation, innovating the use of mushroom mycelia fermentation instead of yeast or bacteria. 

“At the end of the day, if our ingredients allow for better taste, texture, and nutrition, those are the key driving factors of consumer purchase and re-purchase.”​ 

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