Transforming plant-based foods with the power of mushroom mycelia and fermentation

United States-based MycoTechnology is using mushroom mycelia to create proteins and flavours for the food industry through proprietary technology in an effort to help resolve some of the key challenges facing global food production. Ranjan Patnaik, Ph.D., Chief Technology Officer at MycoTechnology, discusses the benefits of mycelia and the fungi-based products the company produces.

With growing concerns surrounding food security, nutrition, sustainability, and economic stability, it’s clear that our food system will require some drastic changes to support the world’s growing population. As livestock farming comes under increasing pressure from various quarters, plant-based alternatives are growing in popularity, although the market continues to face significant challenges when it comes to consumer acceptance and satisfaction. In this changing landscape, the need for innovative solutions is critical. Despite uncertain market conditions, many see the long-term potential of alternative proteins [1], with substantial growth in global sales expected by 2035 [2]. From health to sustainability, the positive effects of plant-based foods are widely known [3,4], but in order to have a lasting impact on the food industry, it’s crucial that products meet the needs and wants of consumers.

There are many important environmental advantages to plant-based foods, but when it comes to purchasing decisions, consumers typically prioritize factors like nutrition and taste [5]. Many alternative protein products fall short in these areas, especially when compared to animal-based options, which contributes to the ongoing resistance toward the adoption of plant-based foods.

About MycoTechnology

Established in 2013 and based in Aurora, Colorado, MycoTechnology creates products from mushroom mycelia that solve the biggest challenges in the food industry. The world’s leading explorer of mycelia, MycoTechnology is dedicated to increasing the availability of healthy, sustainable, clean label and high-quality food options through natural mushroom fermentation. Its product portfolio includes ClearIQ flavor, a line of transformative mushroom-derived flavour modulation tools that decrease the perception of bitter and off-notes, enable the formulation of products with higher nutrient density, and reduce salt and sugar across a broad spectrum of applications. MycoTechnology also offers FermentIQ protein, a line of plant protein products produced via a proprietary fermentation process that harnesses the power of mushroom mycelia to make plant proteins that are more functional, easier to digest, and more delicious.

Natural ingredients

There is also growing awareness and appreciation for natural ingredients and processing methods that consumers can recognize and trust, increasing the demand for innovative solutions in the plant-based sector, both at the ingredient and processing levels. At MycoTechnology, we recognize the unique capabilities of mushroom mycelia to transform important culinary properties such as texture, flavour and nutrition, while reducing dependency on animal products or artificial ingredients. Using our advanced mycelial fermen­tation platform technology and expertise, we can tap into the potential of mushroom mycelia to create better tasting, more nutritious ingredients that could have a major impact on the future of the food industry.

What are mushroom mycelia?

Mycelia act as the root system and powerhouse of fungi. Growing rapidly underground, they create complex networks that communicate with and adapt to their environments, breaking down organic matter into nutrients they can absorb. As mycelia grow and spread, they can create intricate systems for kilometres under the forest floor, cleaning up and feeding the surrounding ecosystem. Due to their natural enzymatic diversity, mycelia can consume a wide variety of substances, introduce a variety of new chemistries, and thrive in varied environments, which is what makes our mycelial fermentation platform so versatile.

MycoTechnology’s mycelial fermentation platform

MycoTechnology harnesses these capabilities using submerged liquid fermentation. Starting with the ideal mycelial strains in a liquid culture, we continuously adjust the environment and growing conditions, using our specialized technology to optimize the fermentation process for the intended goal. With our advanced bioprocessing platform, we have successfully created protein and flavour ingredient solutions that eliminate off-notes, improve functionality and enhance flavour and nutrition across foods, beverages and supplement products.

The kingdom Fungi is filled with unique potential and our team continues to explore its capabilities and uses. MycoTechnology’s integration of discovery, food science, manufacturing and commercialization enables the rapid introduction of new ingredients for continuous, impactful innovation. In addressing the global need for better alternatives to animal products, we are looking beyond protein alone, creating versatile, mycelia-derived ingredients with multifunctional attributes.

Enhancing plant proteins with fermentation

Made by fermenting plant proteins with shiitake mushroom mycelia, MycoTechnology’s FermentIQ plant proteins  are ideal protein sources for a wide range of plant-based products. Our mycelial fermentation process enables the creation of nutritious and delicious plant-based food and beverage products.

FermentIQ PTP is made by fermenting pea and rice protein with shiitake mushroom mycelia to improve taste, texture, functionality and nutritional quality for plant-based protein products. Our mycelial fermentation process reduces negative flavours and aromas, resulting in a more neutral taste. It also enhances digestibility, enabling 99.9% of the protein consumed to be easily digested. Providing complete protein with all essential amino acids and a Protein Digestibility-Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS) of 1.0 for ages 3 and above, FermentIQ PTP can create high-quality plantbased protein products that can better compete with animal proteins, without sacrificing taste, texture or aroma.

Similarly, FermentIQ PEA is made by fermenting pea protein with shiitake mushroom mycelia, creating an ideal solution for high-protein dairy alternatives with improved taste, texture and functionality. In addition to creating a neutral taste with a reduction of negative flavours, our fermentation process enables a creamy mouthfeel, improved solubility and suspension as well as a light, neutral colour to unlock a wider range of formulation possibilities. These features allow for higher protein inclusion without impacting the overall taste, texture or functionality of the formulation.

Natural flavour modification derived from fungi

While consumers are seeking nutritious products, taste remains paramount with 88% of consumers ranking taste as the most important purchasing decision factor. It outranks price, healthfulness, convenience, and environmental impact [6].

Produced via mycelial fermentation, ClearIQ natural flavor  acts as a clean-label bitter blocker and flavour enhancer to enable the creation of healthier, more flavourful products. It reduces the perception of bitter, metallic, and other common negative flavours, while also brightening and clarifying desirable notes, and harmonizing the overall taste profile. With unique, broad-spectrum taste modulation capabilities, it can enhance taste across many different product types to drive consumer loyalty.

Mycelia-based whole food innovation

In addition to MycoTechnology’s existing commercial ingredients, we are leveraging our technological expertise to address challenges in food security, food waste and food quality through the development of a new, mycelia-based whole food. In partnership with the Oman Investment Authority, we are upcycling dates in the region that would otherwise go to waste and using them as a fuel source for our mushroom mycelial biomass. The result is a premium whole food that is rich in naturally occurring nutrients including protein, fibre and micronutrients. This versatile meat alternative could be a valuable new culinary ingredient that is not only nutritious
and sustainable, but a scalable solution for a more stable food supply.

Fermentation as a Service

As we’ve worked to optimize our operations and produce our own ingredients more efficiently, MycoTechnology has recently launched a new Fermentation as a Service (FaaS) platform , enabling companies to efficiently scale up their fermentation operations and overcome critical shortages in capacity. The current manu-facturing capacity crunch is stifling the growth potential of many bioprocesses that could make a significant impact in the efforts to diversify food supply chains and address the climate crisis. By offering our manufacturing capacity, expertise and advanced facility, we aim to partner with other innovators to help navigate the journey to commercial production and accelerate breakthroughs in bioproducts.