Mycoprotein companies that pushing the market up

Valeria Vlasova
3 min read

Alternative proteins are gaining popularity: in the UK alone, the sale of meat substitutes grew from £582 million in 2014 to £816 million in 2019. This affects the market too – in 2020, alternative protein companies raised £2.2 billion in funding and the number is growing every year (1).

Turning fungi into protein isn’t novel. In the mid-1960s, a British flour baron J. Arthur Rank was looking for a way to turn all his excess wheat into protein for human consumption. Rank’s scientists analysed more than 3000 different fungi, but on April 1, 1968 they found what they were looking for in a simple compost heap. The fungus – later identified as Fusarium Venenatum – grew easily in fermenters, turning into a relatively flavourless hunk of high-protein food called mycoprotein (1).

Since then many companies are searching for new fungi for mycoprotein and new technologies to produce it. We discovered some of the most promising companies that offer mycoprotein as a sustainable plant-based meat alternative.

In 1985 a British company Quorn became the first company whose mycoprotein was approved for sale. Nowadays, Quorn is the largest producer of commercial mycoprotein-based products, and from the moment Quorn was introduced to the public, over 5 billion portions have been consumed globally. With the addition of some ingredients, like vegetable flavorings or egg albumin for binding, multiple products have been formulated from mycoprotein: nuggets, burger patties, “fish” fillets, mince, and deli slices (2).
Another British startup that uses technologies to create meat alternatives. ENOUGH ferments fungi with natural sugars from grains to make its proprietary mycoprotein. Their mycoprotein ABUNDA has a fibrous nature that ensures the meaty texture of the final dishes. Besides that, ABUNDA is rich in protein and fiber, as well as naturally fortified in B12, zinc, and iron (3).
La Révolution Champignon
This French startup La Révolution Champignon uses oyster mushrooms in its plant-based food alternatives. There are some features that distinguish the company from others. For example, they use the mushroom foot as the main ingredient to produce recyclable by-products for the mushroom farm. Moreover, mushrooms are grown in end-of-life maritime containers and are harvested daily which facilitates sustainability (3).
A Hong Kong-based startup Mushroom-X combines fungal and nutritional science to grow nutrient-rich species of mushrooms for human consumption. Their mushroom-based food products are aimed to tackle food insecurity and other environmental issues facing food producers (4). In addition, the startup provides mushroom-based biomaterials for construction, furniture, and packaging applications (3).
A German startup Mushlabs steps forward in sustainable meat alternative production by using mushrooms not only to create raw ingredients, but also to decompose waste products of other agro- and food industries. The raw ingredients from Mushlab’s mycoprotein retains the taste and flavor of the meat and also contains essential amino acids, dietary fiber, and antioxidants (5). As a result, there is healthy food that further improves the sustainability of the industry.
A UK-based startup PLANETARIANS developed a technology that uses fermentation to convert the carbohydrates in the plants into additional protein without extraction. Then the entire biomass is converted into alternative meat with great taste and juicy texture. The startup’s proprietary zero-waste mycoprotein combines wet and dry extrusion as well as solid-state fermentation processes (3).
The Better Meat Company
Mycoprotein by The Better Meat Co called Rhiza, and it has a meaty texture, but a very neutral flavor. Thus, it can be used not only for meat alternative food, but also for seafood and fish substitute. Using Rhiza with some flavourings and getting the right moisture balance and texture allows The Better Meat Co to imitate salmon, tuna or pollock (6).