Currently available plant proteins often pose challenges to the food industry.
“Many plant proteins have unwanted flavours, due to which products based on them contain a number of other ingredients for masking unwanted flavours. This is why the ingredient lists of such products are long, with several ingredients unknown to consumers. This, in turn, makes the products less attractive,” says Associate Professor Kirsi Mikkonen, who heads the project behind the MyShroom mycoprotein innovation.
The MyShroom innovation, which originates at the University of Helsinki, offers a solution: the mycoprotein of mycelia provides a new kind of tasty and nutritionally high-quality protein option.
The mycoprotein produced by MyShroom naturally contains some of the same nutrients as meat products. Moreover, its taste is delicious and tinged with umami.
“Flavour is a key factor in choosing food products. Vegan food is chosen only if it tastes good and if its mouthfeel and composition are pleasing.”
Thanks to its meat-like composition, produced by the mycelia, the mycoprotein can be used directly as a substitute for meat or as a raw material in, for example, sausages or patties. This significantly reduces the need for processing.
The mycoprotein is produced through a fermentation process where fungal mycelium feed on a nutrient solution created from, for example, sidestreams generated by agriculture and the food supply chain. Mycelia can be cultured in aseptic conditions in small spaces, utilising waste materials in the process.
In addition to arising as a by-product of another mycelium project, the idea for employing the solution in food production originated in a meal cooked at the University of Helsinki.
“We were utilising sidestreams in the project and producing novel bio-based raw materials for food packaging materials from fungal mycelium. Senior Laboratory Technician Jutta Varis, who participated in the project and who is a vegan herself, wanted to have a go at cooking with the mycoprotein. She cooked a delicious risotto from the mycoprotein for the research team, which engendered an interest in the potential of using mycoprotein in food.”
In October 2022, mycoprotein production is being scaled up to the pilot scale. At the same time, preparations are underway to patent the innovation. The project has been also presented at the Sustainability Science Days 2022 and EuroSense2022 events.
A new exciting phase is starting in the project in October 2022 as several partners in food industry and food service will start testing MyShroom mycoprotein.
“In commercial terms, mycoprotein is an extremely interesting raw material for the food industry for getting rid of animal-derived products and raw materials. Mycoprotein can be used as such, and it can be used to provide consumers with increasingly healthy and tasty meat substitutes,” Kirsi Mikkonen points out.
Mikkonen, who has previous experience of innovation, is already dreaming of the future.
“It would be great to see our product on the shelf in grocery stores and on the menu in restaurants!”
The researchers behind the MyShroom innovation represent a range of fields. The actual innovation originated in collaboration between experts of microbiology and food sciences. Pauliina Lankinen is a docent of microbial biotechnology who has been working with fungi for 20 years. She has focused particularly on the utilisation of various sidestreams in their cultivation. Kirsi Mikkonen is an associate professor of food sciences who specialises in the utilisation of novel bio-based materials in packaging and as raw materials for food products. Jutta Varis, who is currently working as a project planning officer, is particularly enthusiastic about the growth of vegan mushroom mycelium in waste materials and their recovery in a delicious form for food use. Shuddhodana is a researcher specializing in biosciences, he joined the project in November 2021 with project funding granted by Business Finland. Professor Pekka Varmanen has special knowledge of food microbes.
Current products that substitute for meat and other animal-derived proteins do not taste good enough to make consumers want to consume them frequently. The products are also heavily processed, with a long list of ingredients due to which consumers may not necessarily consider them healthy.
Mycoprotein offers a tastier and healthier alternative as an ingredient for solutions that are used to substitute for products of animal origin. Mycoprotein is an inexpensive, versatile and easy-to-use raw material for the food industry. Our sandwich toppingproducts made from mycoprotein provide a genuinely delicious alternative to animal-derived products.
The substitution of products derived from animals requires a large number of various innovations and operators at different stages of the value chain. The mycoprotein designed by MyShroom offers a competitive alternative in terms of both, umami tasting ingredient and the end-products manufactured from it. The current goal of MyShroom is to introduce to the market new plant-based solutions for sandwich toppings, such as cold cuts. The final product preforms will be further specified as the project progresses according to consumer, customer and market needs.
We are particularly interested in partners who would be able to use mycoprotein in their products. In addition, we are looking for operators who invest in alternative protein sources.