Plant-based proteins are well established and we’re hearing increasingly more about cell-based proteins. But what about the third pillar, fermentation proteins?
Fermentation is comprised of many technologies from biomass to synthetic biology and one technology making great strides is mycoprotein production from fungi. As many would know Quorn has been producing mycoprotein for decades now, so the technology is actually pretty well established. However, this hasn’t stopped many companies from either reimagining the uses for mycoprotein or democratising its use by other companies as an ingredient.
One reimagining is the use of mycoproteins to make bacon by Atlast Food Co. In April 2021 they raised USD40m in Series B funding to expand their research and development and help scale their product from their new production facility in the US. Nature’s Fynd is another company exploiting fungi from the volcanic springs in Yellowstone National Park to make cream cheese and burgers. It has raised USD158m to date, has a new production facility, and just received a ‘generally recognised as safe’ approval from the FDA. Similarly, Meati Foods has just raised USD50m to complete its production facility, which will produce millions of kilos of mycoprotein on opening in 2022.
On the seafood front startup, AquaCultured Foods is developing a proprietary strain of fungi with a complete protein profile and high bioavailability. They claim it’s a match for the texture, flavour, and nutrition of conventional fish.
With ingredients, The Better Meat Co. in San Francisco recently released its Rhiza product for use in alternative protein products. Glasgow-based company Enough has released its Abunda product and inked an agreement with Unilever to use it in their Vegetarian Butcher range. Enough’s first facility will produce 11,000 tons per annum, with a target of over a million tons within a decade.
Unlike the cutting-edge cell-based technology, mycoprotein should be a relatively easy sell to customers, so expect to see commercial products on retailers’ shelves in the very near future. The interesting question is what will we call products containing both mycoprotein and plant-based ingredients? If plant-based ingredients predominate, but mycoprotein is also present, are they still plant-based?
Tony Hunter is a global futurist, food scientist, speaker, and foresight strategy consultant. He consults and speaks globally, using his distinctive combination of scientific qualifications, business experience, and detailed understanding of exponential food technologies to deliver a unique perspective on the future of food.