Fungi-based butter: Mycoprotein maker develops ‘first prototype’ for alt dairy applications

By Flora Southey

- Last updated on GMT

The prototype is developed from the start-up's mycoprotein fat ingredient. GettyImages/FotografiaBasica
The prototype is developed from the start-up's mycoprotein fat ingredient. GettyImages/FotografiaBasica

Related tags mycoprotein

Mycorena claims to have made the first mycoprotein butter prototype. FoodNavigator catches up with CEO Ram Nair to find out how.

After six to eight months of R&D, the Swedish mycoprotein maker has successfully developed a prototype for fungi-based butter.

For Mycorena, the development marks its move into high-fat dairy alternative applications

“This is something our team has been trying to figure out for more than a year, with little success until recently,” ​according to chief innovation officer Paulo Teixeira.

“Usually, mycoprotein is considered a non-functional protein ingredient that needs other ingredients to create interesting food structures, We have just shown here that this is not true, you just need to work it the right way.”

Mycoprotein fat ingredient

Mycorena was established in 2017. Two years later, the Swedish start-up launched its mycoprotein ingredient Promyc – made from a ‘unique’, undisclosed fungi strain – for which a 5,000-tonne-capacity production site is under construction.

Now, Mycorena is expanding into alt dairy applications, having developed the ‘first’ prototype for mycoprotein-based butter.

The prototype is developed from the start-up’s mycoprotein fat ingredient. This is produced, at least in the beginning, in ‘exactly’ the same way as its Promyc ingredient, CEO Ram Nair told this publication.

Using fungal mycelium, the start-up leverages the fungal biomass produced during fermentation. From there, however, the process changes. “We have a different downstream processing method [to make mycoprotein fat]. The downstream processing is different, but the starting point is the same.”

mycoprotein butter
Mycorena is expanding into alt dairy applications with the development of a mycoprotein-based butter prototype. Image credit: Mycorena

In that fungi does not contain any fat itself, it serves another function with in the ingredient. “We are basically using the fungi as an emulsifier, to create the kind of texture [found] in butter,” ​explained the CEO.

More specifically, the fungi is emulsified with vegetable oils, which act as a stabilising agent.

Companies needn’t be picky about which oils they use, suggested Nair: “It could be canola oil, it could be vegetable oil, it could be coconut oil.” ​Indeed, Mycorena has developed ‘several’ prototypes based on different oil combinations.

Why alt butter?

The new technology opens up potential for production applications of high-fat dairy alternatives.

Mycorena has observed increased innovation in the alt cheese category. According to Fortune Business Insights, the cheese market is projected to grow from $123.87bn in 2021 to $161.23bn by 2028, with a CAGR of 3.84%.

While this sounds impressive, the butter market is set to exceed cheese in growth. The same market research company projects cow’s milk butter to grow from $37bn in 2021 to $49bn by 2028 at a CAGR of 4.11%.

“There is a lot of focus on cheese these days. From a plant-based perspective, there is a lot of plant-based cheese, but very few butter alternatives,” ​said Nair.

“And from a growth perspective, butter is greater than cheese.”

Mycorena is also attracted to the alt butter category for its nutritional profile. Conventional butter has a ‘very high’ fat content, in that half of the product is made up of saturated fats. Further, it is high in cholesterol.

The start-up’s mycoprotein-based butter alternative contains no cholesterol and a ‘heavily’ reduced saturated fat content. The saturated fat that is present comes from the vegetable oils.

At the same time, the mycoprotein fat ingredient increases the product’s protein content.

dairy SDI Productions
Mycorena is building up a collection of dairy alternatives using its mycoprotein fat ingredient. GettyImages/SDI Productions

Mycorena does not plan to stop there. “We are building up a segment of dairy alternatives, and this is one of the first dairy alternatives we have launched at a prototype stage,” ​revealed the CEO. “We have big plans in alt dairy.”

Related topics Ingredients R&D Butters & Spreads

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