Mushroom mycelium could breathe new life into declining cereals category, claims MycoTechnology

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Mushrooms to transform nutritional profile of grains, MycoTechnology

Related tags Nutrition

Grain companies are working with Denver-based MycoTechnology to explore how mushrooms’ filament-like roots or ‘mycelium’ could help create new value-added opportunities in the cereals market by transforming the nutritional profile of wheat and other grains.

MycoTechnology’s MycoSmooth​ process can reduce or eliminate gluten, lower wheat’s glycemic load, and naturally infuse it with fiber (chitin), immune-boosting 1-3 1-6 beta glucans, and a highly digestible protein with all nine essential amino acids, MycoTech marketing director Josh Hahn told FoodNavigator-USA.

And as sales in many grain-based categories such as ready-to-eat breakfast cereal and packaged bakery have been steadily declining in recent years, marketers are interested in anything that could potentially help revitalize the market and woo lapsed consumers, said Hahn.

In short, the MycoSmooth process (which is best known for tackling bitterness in foods such as coffee and cocoa​) allows people to enjoy carbs but feel they are getting more nutritional bang for their buck, especially at breakfast, he added.

“People want more from their breakfasts than just carbohydrates; they want more energy, they want to be fuller for longer, and consume more protein and fiber. They are also looking for products that are natural, gluten-free, non-GMO, chemical-free, sustainable and organic.

"With 94% of US adults indicating that they eat cereal as some part of their diet, people need a reason to get excited about cereal again.

“Most of the research has been done on wheat but we have also started experimenting with rye, barley and other grains.”

We were able to remove 99.9998% of total gluten content

During the MycoSmooth process, mushroom mycelium are sprayed onto the wheat in the form of a liquid tissue culture and left to work their magic. During the fermentation process, the gluten is virtually eliminated and the grain is infused with protein, chitin (a form of fiber) and beta-glucan, said Hahn.

"According to third party ELISA testing, we were able to remove 99.9998% of total gluten content. While not 100%, the addition of other ingredients would bring the ppm below the FDA’s guidelines​ [20ppm]."

Milling companies are doing their own nutritional analyses of regular wheat flour vs flour from wheat that has gone through the MycoSmooth process, he said. 

“However, our testing revealed a 40% increase in overall protein content. This dramatic increase in protein helps to lower the glycemic load, making a more sustainable energy source that also improves overall satiety,” ​said Hahn. 

As for sensory changes, one unexpected aspect of the process is that myceliation “creates unique umami flavors in certain strains and wheat types”, ​which might also enable formulators to reduce salt and sugar in some applications, he said.

Labeling & regulatory issues

As the mycelium are present within the final food product (they are not just a processing aid), foods made with the grains must include ‘mushroom mycelium’ on the ingredients list​ said Hahn. “We have also gone through the ​[self-determined] GRAS process.”

A lot of food manufacturers are looking for new high-quality non-animal sources of protein

So what level of enthusiasm has there been from the market?

A lot, said Hahn: “The effect on gluten has generated a ton of interest, but the protein infusion is also exciting because a lot of food manufacturers are looking for new high-quality non-animal sources of protein.

"We are talking to companies that are developing new products as well as milling companies looking to see how the MycoSmooth process could dovetail into their processes. However, I think it will probably be seven months or so before we see finished products on the market.”

Read more about myceliation HERE​.

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