Mushrooms at the center of the plate? Plant-based NPD, health attributes and fermented opportunities

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09 Oct 2018 --- Consumer awareness regarding the health benefits and versatility of mushrooms are some of the key factors influencing the growth of the mushroom market at present. The growth in interest in plant-based products and the fact that many consumers are looking to reduce their meat consumption by swapping meat dishes for alternatives is driving mushroom innovation. We are therefore increasingly seeing mushrooms featuring as the star of the show. Increasing demand for meat substitutes followed by growing consumer preference towards vegan food are other factors that are expected to enhance the global market demand for mushrooms.

Mushrooms for a flexitarian diet?
Mushrooms are an excellent alternative for consuming meat, according to Scelta Mushrooms. They are naturally high in protein and fiber, low in sodium, calories, fat and cholesterol free; replacing meat with mushrooms trims the amount of salt, calories and saturated fat, while still feeling full and satisfied.

For example, Scelta’s recipe for the Blend Burger, a mix of finely chopped Ecopouch mushrooms and beef, swaps the meat proteins for those of mushrooms. It is an easy way to increase the consumption of vegetables and decrease meat intake while maintaining meaty satisfaction. Meat can easily be replaced with mushrooms without compromising on flavor and texture. The result is a burger that is very high in taste due to the natural umami flavor of the mushroom. This burger would be lower in calories and has a lower impact on the planet. 

Roy Janssen, Marketing Manager at Scelta Mushrooms, explains to FoodIngredientsFirst: “With all the positivity around mushrooms, they are in the spotlight of many food lovers. As a result, the position on the plate starts to change from a side dish to the center on which the rest of the meal is based. One of our customers, an airline caterer, uses grilled mushrooms to offer a range of vegetarian meals on board. We have found that by grilling mushrooms it makes the flavor even more intense which helps at 30,000 feet where your taste buds respond differently,” he continues. “The Blend Burger is another example of where the mushroom moves from the topping to being the main ingredient of the burger itself.”

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Mushrooms are naturally high in protein and fiber,
low in sodium, calories, fat and cholesterol free

“We see that the global consumption of mushrooms is increasing globally by 7-10 percent per year. This increase is driven by consumer demand for health products with little impact on the planet. Mushrooms tick the boxes. We, therefore, see an increase in the usage of mushrooms in foodservice, the food industry and retail,” he notes.  

“Besides having a great taste, mushrooms are also a true superfood when it comes to health,” claims Janssen. “The high levels of beta-glucan help to target cholesterol, diabetes and cancer. Also, our Scelta Taste Accelerator can improve the flavor of a meal or dish, without adding (more) salt. Therefore, the product is being used in a wide range of products where salt levels are being reduced.”

Scelta is known for its “winnovations,” according to Janssen. “Innovations that help us and our customers move forward to match the continuously increasing demand from the customer. Our latest ‘winnovation’ is our Ecopouch mushroom product enriched with vitamin D,” he says. 

Earlier this year, Scelta successfully received authorization from EFSA (the European Food Safety Authority) to gain novel food status. In accordance with Regulation (EU) 2018/1011 of July 17, 2018, Scelta has developed a method to access the naturally available vitamin D2 in mushrooms.

“Currently, we are rolling out Ecopouch with vitamin D,” Janssen explains. 

“Ecopouch is a unique and patented procedure in which we cook mushrooms in a vacuum aluminum bag. The result is a cooked mushroom without any additives that is shelf-stable for two years and a product that is ready to use straight out of the pouch. This means less waste and less effort in the foodservice sector and food industry without any compensation on taste and mouthfeel when compared to fresh mushrooms. For global chains, this proves to be a major advantage,” he claims.   

Scelta is the first company in the world to apply this method of conservation to processed mushrooms.

Scelta only processes the Agaricus bisporus – also known as white button mushrooms. These are all sourced from the Netherlands. “We like to call them Dutchrooms,” Janssen says. “Dutch mushrooms are great in terms of quality, traceability and year-round consistent supply. In terms of production, The Netherlands ranks fourth after China, the US and Poland.” 

Protein potential and fermented opportunities
MycoTechnology is a food technology company which uses mushroom technology to help solve some of the toughest challenges faced by several industries. The company has over 50 different mushroom strains that they use in various projects. Their mushroom shield, ClearTaste, uses Cordyceps and their protein product, PureTaste, uses Shiitake.

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Josh Hahn, Director of Marketing at MycoTechnology

Speaking to FoodIngredientsFirst, Josh Hahn, Director of Marketing at MycoTechnology, says that demand for plant-based proteins has exploded recently. “Finding plant-based proteins that taste great and are also functional is challenging. This is why our PureTaste protein is so exciting because the fermentation process not only deflavors the protein to make it more of a mild cereal tasting product, but it is also increasing its functionality.”  

“Mushrooms are definitely a hot market. We are starting to see mushrooms pop up in everything from coffee to plant-based alternatives. I think the reason for the big spike in interest around mushrooms is that people are just now discovering all the unique and novel ways that they can be used,” he claims.  

“One unique thing that we discovered is a mushroom extract that can actually block the perception of bitterness in foods. Think of it as a shield for your tongue. The extract temporarily binds with your bitter taste receptors so when bitter ingredients try to bind with the receptor sites, the mushroom extract blocks the receptor and the bitterness is not perceived. This discovery means that we can finally end our dependency on sugar,” continues Hahn. “

“The reason why there is so much sugar in everything that we eat is due to bitterness,” Hahn muses. “Protein, sauces, bread, snacks, cereal, and nearly everything in between has sugar in it to cover up the unwanted flavors of the raw ingredients. By using our mushroom shield, companies can reduce the perception of bitterness in their products so that they need less sugar to cover it up. This is also particularly exciting for the stevia industry since stevia is a natural, no calorie sweetener. Its drawback is the bitter metallic aftertaste that has limited its acceptance by consumers. Our mushroom extract in combination with stevia allows for a clean tasting alternative sweetener that has the potential to replace sugar completely,” he states.  

What about opportunities in fermentation? “We are only scratching the surface as to what mushroom fermentation can do. We have a backlog of R&D projects that have the potential to change the food industry dramatically,” Hahn explains. 

“Our mushroom shield, ClearTaste, is a powerful solution. Another solution we are embarking on is how to feed an exponentially growing population with a sustainable protein source. To solve this, we developed our PureTaste protein which is a Shiitake fermented vegetable protein. We are only at the beginning of tackling this huge challenge. Our first facility for PureTaste is expected to be up and running by the end of the year,” Hahn notes. 

“Mushrooms do have the potential to take the center plate and we have a special announcement coming on this soon,” Hahn concludes. Stay tuned! 

By Elizabeth Green  

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