MycoTechnology raises $30m, discovers novel application area for ClearTaste in salt reduction

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

PureTaste uses 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. Picture: GettyImages-kichigin/
PureTaste uses 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. Picture: GettyImages-kichigin/

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MycoTechnology – which is building a functional ingredients platform utilizing mycelium, the filament-like roots of mushrooms - has raised $30m in a series C financing round from a flurry of high profile investors* from Tyson Ventures to Kellogg’s Eighteen94 Capital, taking its total funding to more than $80m.

Colorado-based MycoTechnology​has multiple projects in the R&D pipeline, but is best-known for its ClearTaste bitter blocking ingredient, and PureTaste​plant-based protein, which blows rivals out of the water from a nutritional and sensory standpoint, claimed CEO Alan Hahn.

“This was a customer led validation of what we’re doing by strategic food companies," ​Hahn told FoodNavigator-USA. "We’ll be spending the money on the 86,000sq ft PureTaste protein plant ​[in Aurora, CO], which we just opened last week, along with our 5,000sq fit laboratories, HQ and customer experience center, and on expanding the team and further developing our R&D pipeline.”

ClearTaste masks the metallic aftertaste of potassium chloride

ClearTaste – a FEMA GRAS ingredient typically labeled as ‘natural flavor’ in the US - is being used to mask the bitter aftertaste associated with a raft of ingredients from high intensity natural and artificial sweeteners, to plant-based proteins, coffee and chocolate, enabling companies to make significant sugar reductions, claimed Hahn.

We’ve also developed a blend of ClearTaste with maltodextrin so it can be more easily incorporated into food production processes.”

Recent testing has also revealed that ClearTaste can mask the bitter metallic aftertaste associated with salt replacer potassium chloride, enabling companies to include higher levels of the salt replacer in formulations without compromising on taste, said Hahn.

“We just had a test done by a major food company where they reduced the salt in lunch meat using potassium chloride blended with ClearTaste and you couldn’t tell the difference vs a fully salted version. We’re very excited about this and we’re now looking at soups and sauces and frozen foods to greatly reduce the salt content.”

GRAS determination

Unlike some other novel proteins manufactured in tanks via a fermentation process, PureTaste, MycoTech's spray-dried powder containing 78% protein by dry weight, does not use genetically engineered yeasts or other micro-organisms, but uses naturally occurring mycelium from an heirloom variety of Shiitake mushroom that convert feedstock containing pea and rice protein into a high-quality, complete vegan protein, said Hahn.

“We first put together a GRAS determination​ [MycoTech convened a panel of experts who determined that PureTaste is safe] and then we met with the FDA to discuss our dossier and they gave us some great feedback, so we’ve now made some changes and will be submitting it ​[a GRAS determination] to the FDA this week.”

A complete plant-based protein 

As PureTaste has a PDCAAS score of 1.00 - and also contains vitamin B12, which is sought-after by many vegans and vegetarians – its nutritional profile has attracted a lot of interest from companies looking to formulate with plant-based proteins, said Hahn.

“But they also like the fact that it doesn’t have the off tastes associated with many plant-based proteins. It’s a light brown color with a neutral taste and aroma, and 6% fiber.

“We start shipping ​[commercial quantities] in February and the first launch will be a protein bar, but we’ve had interest from companies making everything from ready to mix protein powders to ready-to-drink beverages and dairy alternatives – ice creams, milks and yogurts – and protein bars. Bunge has also developed a protein crisp with 70% protein containing PureTaste that is ideal for bars and snacks.

“One thing formulators like is its ability to hold water – it holds 10 times its weight in water – so it makes a great allergen-free meat extender to replace soy. It can also be used in meat analogs in a blend with some other ingredients, which is something we’re working on now – how to turn it into texturized vegetable protein.”

Fermented vegetable protein

According to Hahn, PureTaste can be labeled in the US as ‘fermented 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 (although they are technically fungi).

But he added: “If you want to use the word ‘mushroom’ on the ingredients list, the FDA says you’d need to put in something to explain that it’s mycelium, to make it clear that it is the roots, and not the fruited body​ [ie. the stalk and dome part of the fungi that most consumers recognize as a mushroom].”

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.

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

PureTaste 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.

“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,” ​explained MycoTech CEO Alan Hahn.

"The mycelium also produce fiber – Pure Taste has over 6% fiber.”​​

My vision is to go public through an IPO

So what’s the next step for MycoTech following this Series C round? 

“My vision is to go public through an IPO and I’m targeting 2021 for that,"​ said Hahn. "I think we have a great story for the public and I think it will be well received.”

*The Series C funding round was co-led by S2G Ventures Fund II, L.P., Middleland MT Holdings, LLC, ADM Capital’s Cibus Fund, and TML-Invest S.à r.l. with participation from Tysons Ventures, Bunge Ventures Limited, RPC Investments, LLC, Continental Grain Company, Eighteen94 Capital, LLC, Gaingels MyCo LLC, and DNS-Hiitake LLC.

Representing one of the largest privately held dairy companies in Europe, we are excited to become an investor in MycoTechnology and its two key products, ClearTaste and PureTaste. Both the reduction of added sugar in FCMG as well as alternative dairy proteins are themes that we at Mueller are monitoring quite closely. An investment into a technology that addresses both topics in an innovative and seminal matter made sense for us on various levels.”

Martin Goeggelmann, head of the family office of Mr. Mueller​, owner of the Mueller dairy brand.

“MycoTechnology’s fungi fermentation platform solves a number of the biggest challenges in the food industry, including: producing a high value, complete protein alternative to animal-based products, increased sustainability, and the ability to drastically reduce sugar content in foods.”

Alastair Cooper, senior investment director, ADM Capital

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