Meat continues to dominate the protein market, with demand expected to further increase in the coming years. By 2050, global meat consumption is projected to reach between 460m tonnes and 570m tonnes – the latter which would equate to twice as much as 2008 levels.
At the same time, pressure to reduce meat intake is also on the rise. Meat production is estimated to be responsible for around 15% of all greenhouse gas emissions, and governments, manufacturers, and consumers are taking notice. In response, the plant-based food market has exploded.
However, new plant-based meat and seafood alternatives have failed to completely convince consumers: the flexitarian diet prevails. Even blended plant-based and meat products have struggled to appeal to consumers, with Tyson Foods and BrewDog amongst the companies to have launched, and since retired, hybrid meat and plant-based products in recent years.
However, not all have lost hope in the hybrid concept. Sweden-based mycoprotein maker Mycorena is collaborating with industry players to blend fungi with meat, which the start-up believes will ‘enable change in consumer behaviour’.
‘Meat-like’ qualities in a hybrid product
Mycorena believes such hybrid products could reduce consumers’ meat consumption ‘significantly’, all the while providing sufficient nutrients and a ‘meat-like’ eating experience.
“We need to change how we produce food and reduce meat consumption. However, for everyone to completely cut out meat is unrealistic. Going vegetarian is a big step for many,” said Sandar Zachrisson, Head of Product Innovation at Mycorena.
“Hybrid products could solve this issue. My blending meat and mycoprotein, we can reduce the environmental impact while still consciously consuming meat.”
Mycorena launched its mycoprotein ingredient Promyc – made from a ‘unique’, undisclosed fungi strain – in 2019. Using fungal mycelium, the start-up leverages the fungal biomass produced during fermentation.
The company claims Promyc is ‘neutral’ in taste with a ‘meat-like’ texture, making it an excellent option for hybrid blends to maintain the taste and texture consumers desire.
In collaboration with meat manufacturer Nybergs Deli and supermarket retailer ICA, Mycorena is developing hybrid prototypes to test mixes and validate products on the market.
Collaborating with a meat maker and retailer
Product development will initially focus on a hybrid mince, produced together with Nybergs Deli in Sweden.
“We are aware that meat is a food with an environmental impact and that consumption accounts for a part of people’s climate impact. We also believe that total meat consumption will decrease somewhat over time,” said Mikael Ottestig, Commercial Director at Nybergs Deli.
“We believe that there is great potential for hybrid products for consumers who want to continue to enjoy meat but in a slightly smaller amount.”
Mycorena will then test the market and consumer demand for the new category with ICA. By taking on a more ‘consumer-oriented approach’, the collaboration hopes to provide families with healthy, sustainable, and affordable products.
“We see potential in developing hybrid products in the meat and charcuterie category that facilitates consumers to make more healthy and sustainable choices from the shelf,” said Peder Ahlberg, Category Manager Meat/Charcuterie at ICA. “It is supposed to be easy to choose even more nutritious everyday favourites at ICA.”
The first commercial products from this collaboration are expected to hit shelves in Q4 2023.
Expanding mycoprotein into new categories
The collaboration is another sign of Mycorena’s commitment to expanding the presence of mycoprotein into multiple categories.
Last year, the start-up claimed to have developed the first prototype for fungi-based butter, marking its move into high-fat dairy alternative applications. “This is something our team has been trying to figure out for more than a year, with little success until recently,” chief innovation officer Paulo Teixeria told us at the time.
“Usually, mycoprotein is considered a non-functional protein ingredient that needs other ingredients to create interesting food structures. We have just shown here that is not true, you just need to work it the right way.”
And three months ago, the start-up entered into a research collaboration with Revo Foods to explore mycoprotein’s potential in vegan seafood whole cuts. Specifically, the tie-up will explore a new method of treating mycoprotein to make it suitable for 3D printing.
“With this technology, the possibilities for texture and form are on another level compared to current meat analogues, being restricted only be imagination, not processing methods,” said Mycorena’s Teixeira.