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MycoTech brings in another $9 million based in part on promise of mushroom platform to smooth stevia's taste

By Hank Schultz

21-Oct-2015
Last updated on 21-Oct-2015 at 17:41 GMT2015-10-21T17:41:23Z

MycoTechnology brings in $9m for mushroom tech platform

MycoTechnology, a company that uses mushrooms to alter taste profiles in foods and beverages, has announced a major stevia product launch and the close of a second round of funding.

This week the company closed on a Series A round on $9.2 million in funding.  The cash, which comes on the heels of an infusion of $6.7 million in July, will be used to support the company’s rapid growth, said marketing manager John Hahn.

“We are rapidly expanding our capabilities in every department.  We plan to double in size in the next two months,” Hahn told FoodNavigator-USA.

Part of that rapid expansion can be attributed to MycoTech’s ability to use its mushroom technology platform to alter the taste of one of the fastest growing ingredients in the business—stevia.  The technology, dubbed Clear Taste, is just coming on the market, Hahn said, but has great promise to smooth out the troublesome taste profile that has plagued stevia from the start.

MycoTechnology’s ‘myceliation’ process – by which the mushroom mycelium can remove unwanted compounds and infuse agricultural raw materials with 1-3 1-6 beta glucans and a highly digestible protein - can also create smoother (less bitter) coffee; chocolate that tastes great with no added sugar and wheat minus virtually all of its gluten. 

Initial focus on stevia

Stevia exhibits a different taste profile than the benchmark, sugar, which is most often described as ‘delayed onset.’  Stevia is as much as 400 times sweeter than sugar, but that signal to the taste receptors comes on all at once and lingers for a while, and in that lingering note there is a metallic or licorice-like aftertaste that has proven surprisingly difficult to deal with.  

Stevia developers focused first on finding those glycosides within the leaf that provided sweetness with the fewest undesirable characteristics.  Rebaudoside A was the first target, as it offered promising properties and was found at commercially viable levels within the leaf.  Mixtures of Reb D and Reb M are the latest development targets, but these glycosides are found only at tiny levels within the leaves and so at the moment must be produced via fermentation using genetically altered mircobes, which complicates the final ingerdient’s positioning in the market. MycoTech believes it has a solution for good old, garden-variety stevia.

“We can improve any level of purity of stevia. What we have been able to do is to change the whole character of stevia.  We can take a 60% Reb A which is half the cost of a 97% Reb A and make it taste better than the 97% Reb A.  With that, your cost drops down to the level of sugar.  It could really turn the stevia market on its head,” Hahn said.

Major stevia launch

The technology was promising enough to induce a major partner, US Niutang, the on-shore arm of the Chinese chemical and food ingredient giant, to develop a stevia ingredient offering MycoTech’s Clear Taste ingredient. In addition to muting the metallic aftertaste, Hahn said the technology also seems to smooth out the delivery of the sweet signal.

“I’m not going to say it taste like sugar because it doesn’t, but it makes the stevia taste more balanced. We have had tasting experts sample the product and they say the mouthfeel is more rounded,” Hahn said.

Niutang’s NiuVia product, which is just coming on to the market with MycoTech’s addition, is the first application of the technology but it won’t be the last, Hahn said.

“We have tested it with things like monk fruit and pea protein to remove the bitter notes. Some of these applications are in the final development stages,” Hahn said. The company is said to be talking to companies in the coffee, chocolate and bakery categories.

The new funding, in additional to helping to expand personnel capabilities, will also be used to build a new production plant, Hahn said. The company’s existing plant is located in Aurora, CO, a suburb of Denver.  In addition, the company has boosted it scienfific backing by teaming with analytical lab Brunswick Laboratories.

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