US-based MycoTechnology is partnering with ingredients major IFF to co-develop alternative proteins for the European market. By combining the start-up’s mycelial fermentation platform with IFF’s industry expertise, the duo plans to develop new solutions for food and beverage clients.
“When you take our fermented plant-based ingredients and combine them with IFF’s formulation expertise and surrounding ingredients, we can really iterate together to get that finished product the customer is looking for,” Lisa Wetstone, Director, Innovation & Growth Strategy, explained.
“We’re using our technology and the benefits of fermentation, and using their facilities [including IFF’s Culinary Design Center in Brabrand, Denmark] and library of other ingredients, and putting that together to help the customer get the market,” she told FoodNavigator at trade show Fi Europe in Paris last week.
MycoTechnology invests in Europe
From MycoTechnology’s perspective, the tie-up with IFF is part of a ‘bigger story’ and representative of the company’s ‘rapid growth’ in recent years. “Europe is the next frontier for us. There is a lot of exciting activity here, a lot of innovation in both plant-based and nutrition-forward food and beverages,” revealed the company’s growth lead.
Currently selling into the US market – MycoTechnology’s fermented shiitake, pea and brown rice protein was determined GRAS (generally recognised as safe) by the FDA back in 2018 – the company has had its eye on Europe for a while now. This year saw the start-up make hires in Europe, bring on a distributor, and team up with an ingredients major to reach the masses on this side of the pond.
It’s not the first time MycoTechnology has worked with IFF. However, collaboration to date has largely centred around ‘individual projects’. “It was the right time and place for us to make [the collaboration] more formal, to put our heads together, and work together to create better products, especially in plant-based where we’re bringing some novel ingredients solutions.”
These solutions include MycoTechnology’s mushroom-fermented plant-proteins FermentIQ and the company’s bitter blocker and flavour modifier derived from mushroom fermentation, ClearIQ.
Liquid state fermentation for ‘flexibility’
The start-up’s technology is founded on mycelia, the root-like structure from which fungi grow, to which it applies its proprietary liquid fermentation platform to develop novel ingredients.
Using liquid state (as opposed to solid state) fermentation offers MycoTechnology ‘more flexibility’, explained Wetstone. Solid state fermentation is often used to develop textured meat alternatives, which has the feedstock grains ‘baked in’. Using liquid state fermentation allows the start-up to harvest the mycelia only. “We give it the exact nutrients it needs, we put it in exactly the right conditions, to [be able to] do what we want [with it].”
For the FermentIQ protein, the start-up nourishes the mycelia with a proprietary growth medium until a certain yield is achieved, at which stage it is combined with the plant protein material – in this case pea and rice proteins – to ‘give it a bit of an upgrade’.
By leveraging mycelia as a tool to ‘transform’ the plant proteins, the taste profile, aromas, and functionality – such as solubility – is improved, we were told. “There is a lot happening in this process.”
The fermentation process also improves the digestibility of the plant proteins, Wetstone added. “Our fermentation process re-digests plant proteins, so that we’re reaching a 99.9% digestibility rate of our protein ingredient. There is increased absorption of amino acids and some reductions in antinutrients.”
Novel Foods nod imminent?
Although fungi have been consumed by humans for millennia, their root structure – mycelia – can be considered novel. In Europe, that means that some mycelia strains require pre-market approval.
So even though MycoTechnology is using well-known mushrooms varieties, such as shitake (the start-up has also conducted tests with oyster and trumpet mushrooms), Novel Foods approval may still be required.
The company’s fermentation-derived flavour ingredient doesn’t require Novel Foods authorisation. But FermentIQ does. The ingredient – which comes in a powder and texturized form – is currently undergoing the Novel Foods process in Europe, which Wetstone revealed is ‘nearly done’.
Indeed, approval is expected ‘this year’, we were told. “We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, but we’re expecting it any day now.”
In Europe, the company expects FermentIQ will appear on ingredients lists as ‘pea and rice protein fermented with shitake mycelia’, or an accepted shortened version of this.
MycoTechnology inks Brenntag distribution deal
While at Fi Europe, it was announced that MycoTechnology has plans to further embed itself in the European market via a supplier partnership with Germany-headquartered Brenntag, a chemicals and ingredients distributor.
The supply agreement covers Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Benelux, France, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria and Switzerland, enabling Brenntag Specialities customers to access MycoTechnology ingredients for meat analogue, dairy alternative, protein beverages, baked goods, and snack applications, amongst others.
Alan Hahn, CEO of MycoTechnology said the company was ‘’thrilled’ to announce the partnership, which would be ‘instrumental’ in bringing its mycelia-based ingredients to scale in the European market.