With the proliferation of plant-based alternatives and the potential for growth in the animal-free dairy segment, the alt dairy sector is tipped to expand by 15.39% annually to 2027 according to Statista, which also projects global volumes to grow by 14% in 2024 alone.
As product availability and variety grows, consumers increasingly compare alt dairy products on price and nutrition as well as functionality. Plant-based beverages, for example, no longer need to simply froth well; their nutrient content, such as the availability of calcium, iodine, B vitamins or protein, within the drink is also under the scrutiny of health-conscious consumers.
Enter mycoprotein, the ‘super-protein’ developed by Marlow Foods and the ingredient at the heart of meat-free brand Quorn. Marlow mycoprotein is naturally high in protein, provides all nine essential amino acids, has a high fibre content and contains several vitamins and minerals. It is low in saturated fat and, according to Quorn’s 2022 footprint comparison report, uses 90% less land and water and produces 98% less carbon emissions than equivalent beef products. A recent study from Northumbria University has also found that eating mycoprotein increases healthy gut bacteria and leads to a significant reduction in intestinal genotoxins, which can cause bowel cancer (see Sources below for more information).
With Marlow Foods setting up an ingredients division to offer mycoprotein to manufacturers – firstly in Europe, then globally – it could provide another option for makers of dairy alternatives to boost their products’ nutritional values and functional properties.
But while the ingredient has been used extensively in the manufacture of meat alternatives, we asked Marlow Foods if they had ever experimented with dairy. Tom Lindley, head of strategy and marketing at Marlow Ingredients, told DairyReporter: “There’s huge potential for our mycoprotein.
“We’ve done some initial development work that showed that it can work across the whole alt dairy space. Our work in yogurt and cheese alternatives in particular was hugely successful. The trials ticked the box on taste, texture, nutrition and sustainability for us, now we’re looking for a partner to help us take it to the next level.”
On how mycoprotein can be adapted for alt dairy, he said: “Alongside the incredible nutritional and sustainable benefits it’s famous for, the huge benefits of Marlow mycoprotein for the alt dairy sector is its neutral taste and neutral colour. Marlow mycoprotein is high in fibre, high in protein, low in saturated fat and free from trans-fat and cholesterol. It’s also a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids needed by our bodies. All of this could be really valuable to a dairy alternative product.”
Marco Bertacca, Marlow Foods CEO, added: “Alongside the delicious meat-like texture and incredible nutritional and sustainable benefits it's famous for, there's exciting research happening into [mycoprotein’s] ability to create more sustainable versions of other applications, such as dairy alternatives.”
Bertacca said that Marlow Ingredients’ initial focus will be on building partnerships with food manufacturers. The new division's launch forms part of Marlow Foods' ambition to become a net-positive business by 2030, in addition to tapping into the alternative protein space from the position of an ingredient supplier.
“We have a super protein in Marlow mycoprotein, and there’s still plenty of headroom for growth in dairy alternatives,” Tom Lindley explained. “Consumers are interested in new products, particularly those that can bring the nutritional and sustainable benefits that our mycoprotein can.”
As Marlow Ingredients looks for partners to further the development of mycoprotein-powered dairy alternatives, things appear to be moving in a positive direction already. “We have already had some discussions with companies in the alt dairy space, which we hope will lead to an exciting announcement," Lindley said.
However, any announcement would come ‘further down the line - months rather than weeks,’ we were told.
Substituting meat for mycoprotein reduces genotoxicity and increases the abundance of beneficial microbes in the gut: Mycomeat, a randomised crossover control trial
Dominic N. Farsi, et al
European Journal of Nutrition
Published: 18 January 2023