MycoTech raises $35m to fuel vegan mushroom protein ambitions, strikes strategic partnership

By Elaine Watson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Picture: istockphoto-studio-grand-quest
Picture: istockphoto-studio-grand-quest
Boulder-based MycoTechnology has raised $35m in a series B financing round from a flurry of high profile investors* from Kellogg’s Eighteen94 Capital to Bunge Ventures and inked a strategic partnership with a leading player in the natural products industry to take its PureTaste vegan mushroom protein to the mass market.

Unlike some other novel proteins manufactured in tanks via a fermentation process, PureTaste, a “slightly nutty-tasting”​ spray-dried powder containing 77-80% protein by dry weight, does not use genetically engineered yeasts or other micro-organisms, but uses naturally occurring mycelium (the filament-like roots) from an heirloom variety of Shiitake mushroom that convert feedstock containing pea and rice protein into a high-quality, complete vegan protein.

According to MycoTechnology​, PureTaste can be labeled in the US as ‘fermented shiitake vegetable protein’ and can be included in products making ‘plant-based protein’ claims given that for regulatory purposes, the FDA considers mushrooms to be plants (even though they are technically fungi), CEO Alan Hahn told FoodNavigator-USA.

When sufficient quantities of protein have been manufactured – the process takes just 48 hours from culture to harvest - the whole mixture is harvested and then spray-dried into a fine protein-rich powder that’s low in calories, fat and carbohydrates, and packed with vitamins and minerals that cannot be found in other competitive proteins, claimed Hahn.

Read more about the composition of Pure Taste HERE​.

Commercial scale production

MycoTechnology will use part of the latest cash injection to build a 4,000/metric ton/year commercial production facility in Aurora, Colorado for Pure Taste, scheduled to become operational in November 2018, but says it has the capabilities to produce sizeable quantities in the meantime for smaller customers keen to get products to market more rapidly.

mushroom-diagram-Shane-Mulholland-forestorganics68_large
Picture: Shane Mulholland-forestorganics68

The strategic partner – who will be announced next week – will be selling, marketing and distributing the product globally and is working with manufacturers of every shape and size in application areas from nutritional shakes to tortillas, meat analogs, salad dressings, cereals, protein bars and ready to drink protein beverages, said Hahn.

“It works really well in tortilla shells as it has great water holding properties so you can roll the tortilla shells without them cracking. I think meat analogs will also be important applications. It also works well in cereal in the form of extruded protein pellets. It can settle out of suspension in beverages so you have to add gums, but that’s typical of many proteins. However, it doesn’t have gelling strength and emulsification.”

Pure Taste Protein​ is derived from the fermentation of plant based protein feedstock with the mycelium of Shiitake mushroom (Lentinula edodes​) in an aqueous environment. The resulting protein has all nine essential and 11 non-essential amino acids.

"We are excited about this investment in MycoTechnology because not only do they make an innovative, non-animal protein source that also has a clean flavor profile, but their process is highly sustainable​.”

Sanjeev Krishnan, Managing Director, S2G Capital

"MycoTechnology is doing important work to ensure that a sustainable, edible protein source is more widely available to consumers. They are committed to addressing consumer demand for a great-tasting, protein-rich product and we're very excited to partner with them."

 Simon Burton, managing director, eighteen94 capital

Game-changer?

While lots of so-called ‘alternative’ proteins are now hitting the market, Pure Taste is a potential game-changer in that it has a comparable nutritional profile to animal-based protein, an appealing taste, high solubility compared to other plant proteins and a far lower carbon footprint, claimed Hahn.

diaas

“The higher the amino acid concentration, the more taste problems you typically run into, but due to the fermentation process, the off notes you get from pea and rice protein are effectively neutralized, so you get a protein with a slight cereal taste and a neutral aroma, which allows customers to formulate high protein products that taste great and don’t need masking or covering up.

“The mycelium excrete enzymes and metabolites that break down the pea and rice protein strands and make them more bioavailable so your body can digest the amino acids.

"The Digestible Indispensable Amino Acid Score (DIAAS) – a measure of protein quality – is 1, whereas soy is 0.91, pea is 0.86 and rice is 0.73, so it’s really comparable to animal protein. It has all nine essential and 11 non-essential amino acids. The mycelium also produce fiber – Pure Taste has over 6% fiber.”

From a pricing perspective, Pure Taste will be priced at the premium end of the market given its superior taste and nutritional qualities, but on a par or more affordable than some specialty proteins, he said.

Regulatory status

mushroom protein

While, pea and rice protein and shiitake mushrooms have been widely consumed all over around the world for thousands of years, MycoTech is going through the voluntary GRAS notification process and will submit its determination to the FDA in due course, he added.

"We've had discussions with the FDA and we don't anticipate any issues as all of the components we are using are already GRAS."

*The Series B funding round was led by S2G with co-leads: Bunge Ventures Ltd., and Emerson Collective. Additional investors include: Health For Life Capital / Seventure Partners, Middleland Capital, Tao Capital Partners, Eighteen94 Capital, Continental Grain, GreatPoint Ventures, Closed Loop Capital and Windy City, LLC.

Visit MycoTechnology (booth #I159) at Supply Side West in Las Vegas to find out more.

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