MycoTech brings mushroom-based bitter blocker to Europe

By Niamh Michail

- Last updated on GMT

By blocking the bitter flavours of sweeteners, fermented mushroom extract can cut sugar in food and drink. © GettyImages/pinkomelet
By blocking the bitter flavours of sweeteners, fermented mushroom extract can cut sugar in food and drink. © GettyImages/pinkomelet
As US supplier MycoTechnology turns its attention to the European market, its CEO explains how fermented mushrooms can reduce sugar, block bitterness and improve the nutritional content of plant protein. “It’s really unlimited what we can do with our fermentation platform,” he says.

Colorado-based MycoTechnology uses the fermented filament-like roots or ‘mycelium’ of fungi to create functional ingredients with a range of uses.

Its bitter-blocking ingredient ClearTaste has recently been approved for the EU market, and the company’s CEO and co-founder Alan Hahn said he was “super excited​” about the company’s push into Europe.

“All other bitter blockers we know about are chemicals but ours is a natural, certified organic product. It also does more than just block bitterness, it also acts as a flavour enhancer to make products taste better by ‘smoothing out’ the flavour.”

ClearTaste can be used as “a simple add-in ingredient​” in conjunction with sweeteners such as stevia, acesulfame K and sucralose to block their bitter notes and achieve sugar reductions of around 40 to 50%.

Only a small amount is needed, the food tech company says. With stevia, for example, manufacturers can use it in the range of one to 1.5 parts per million.

Other manufacturers are using ClearTaste directly in food to reduce the need for sugar, Hahn told us.

“It works with wheat, for example. Some manufacturers use around 7% sugar in bread to hide a bitter, sour or astringent taste of wheat. But ClearTaste can improve the flavour meaning you don’t need to add the sugar in the first place, or you can add less of it.”

It also reduces the astringency of beer and alcohol, masks the citrus notes of monk fruit and balances the flavour of acidic and basic pH beverages.

“We are super excited to push into the EU and UK. Health and wellness, type 2 diabetes and sugar reduction are on people’s minds and we have a way to address all those issues with this product. There’s tremendous alignment of what we’re bringing to market and what the market wants.”

Hahn describes the ingredient’s performance across categories as “pretty robust​”. Most common applications are in beverages, bakery and snacks but he said it also works well in supplements.

ClearTaste can be listed as a natural flavour or natural extract.

‘Novel approaches for tough challenges’

“We’re creating novel approaches to deal with tough challenges […] and it’s really unlimited what we can do with our fermentation platform. We can adjust the inputs and environment that the mushrooms grow in, change the mushroom itself – we have a library of over 50 – and also change the downstream process. For example, we can freeze dry instead of spray drying which helps maintain certain attributes, or separate solid from liquid,” ​Hahn said.

The company is also working with Naturex (whose acquisition by flavours and fragrance giant Givaudan will be completed this month, with Naturex set to be delisted from the French stock exchange next week) on a plant-based protein, called PureTaste.

This ingredient, made of fermented pea, rice and shitake mushrooms, masks the “beany notes, bad aroma and after taste​” in pea protein and adds a slight cereal taste, Hahn said.

“The way we blend these three ingredients in the fermentation process means we end up with a complete protein with all nine essential amino acids and the nine non-essential ones. The shitake mushroom also adds vitamin B12, which is typically only found in meat products too.”

MycoTechnology has applied to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for novel food approval  for PureTaste, and expects to get it next month.

The company also has other projects in the pipeline too, but Hahn remained tight-lipped on which ingredients it had its sights on.

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