Chinova Bioworks discovers new functional benefit to mushroom-based preservative for non-dairy applications

By Mary Ellen Shoup contact

- Last updated on GMT

©GettyImages / Axel Bueckert
©GettyImages / Axel Bueckert

Related tags: Chinova Bioworks, plant-based dairy, probiotics, natural preservatives

A year since launching its Chiber natural preservative made from chitosan, a biopolymer extracted from mushrooms which prevents spoilage in a variety of products including plant-based dairy alternatives, Chinova Bioworks has solved another issue facing plant-based dairy producers: the preservation of products' probiotic counts throughout an extended shelf life.

In March of this year, Chinova Biowork's Chiber chitosan ingredient for plant-based dairy products began appearing in plant-based yogurts and cheese brands carried at more than 1,000 retail stores, where it appears as 'white button mushroom extract' or 'mushroom extract' on the ingredients deck-- a plus for consumers and brands looking for clean labels.

"You can find us on a lot of labels, especially in the plant-based dairy sector,"Chinova Bioworks​ founder Natasha Dhayagude told FoodNavigator-USA. 

The company had already proven its ability to extend shelf life by two to three weeks in some plant-based dairy products including an almond-based yogurt and cashew-based yogurt, but in working with brands in the burgeoning category, Dhayaghude discovered preservation of costly probiotic strains was an issue afflicting many and something the company had not investigated fully before. 

"What we’re finding with the plant-based dairy alternatives is that because it’s such a new market that they do have their own set of unique functional challenges,"​ she said. 

"This is really where the added value of Chiber for plant-based dairy comes into play. It’s giving these brands access to things like increased shelf life, improvement of quality and freshness of their product, while protecting the probiotic cultures.

The market for probiotics has exploded in recent years and consumers have come to expect high-quality forms of these gut-healthy strains in many categories including plant-based yogurt. According to Research & Markets, the global probiotic market is expected to reach $69.3bn by 2023 fueled by the rise of functional probiotic-containing foods and beverages.

Chinova Bioworks conducted a pilot test with a brand of cashew yogurt containing probiotics, which had been experiencing molding issues and degradation to its probiotic content prior to its expiration date. 

In the test, the company compared cashew yogurt using Chiber to the control product (cashew yogurt without Chiber)

What the brand found at the end of the pilot test was a 60% reduction of mold growth in the product (containing Chiber) at the end of the extended shelf-life, which the company was able to extend from three to six weeks.

Additionally, probiotic bacteria counts were the same level as the control with no Chiber proving that the company's Chiber solution does not only inhibit spoilage but also protects probiotic bacteria like lactobacillus and bifidobacteria in the yogurt, said Dhayagude.

"It’s the first of its kind clean label solution for doing both."

A Chiber for every category

Dhayagude added that Chiber can play a role in most product categories from sauces and baked goods to plant-based meat alternatives, all of which the Chinova Bioworks is currently working on bringing to market. 

"Each of the different products are designed specifically to target the most common types of spoilage organisms in each category. For example, dairy has different spoilage issues than plant-based yogurt might have, and our Chiber for plant-based dairy product is focused on yeast and mold issues because that’s the primary concerns plant-based dairy is seeing,"​ she said.

The company's extension of Chiber into new categories will begin next year, she added, which will be supported by a $5m Series A fundraising round completed by the end of Q3 2021. 

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