Mighty mushrooms: are fungi the future of food ?

Mighty mushrooms: are fungi the future of food ?

By
Laura Robinson
April 7, 2020

There seems to be two camps when it comes to mushrooms.

Some people can’t get enough of their hearty, meat-like texture and their umami flavour that brings a unique depth to a myriad of dishes. Whereas others have been put off by memories of badly cooked soggy or slimy slices of mush.

Thankfully, innovative food companies have rushed to the rescue and are now offering plenty of ways to enjoy this versatile and healthy ingredient – from mushroom bacon and seafood to savoury snacks, like jerky and crisps. Even Big Food is getting involved, with Kellogg investing $35 million in Myco Technology and General Mills backing Purely Elizabeth’s mushroom-powered functional wellness bars.  

Then perhaps it’s no surprise that mushrooms have been hailed to be one of the key trends to watch in 2020, with the global market projected to jump from $34.1 billion in 2015 to $69.3 billion by 2024. So, let’s take a closer look at what these new fungi on the block can offer.

Trend drivers: health benefits and greener product options

Mushrooms boast some glowing health credentials. They’re not only packed full of antioxidants, essential vitamins and fibre but apoptogenic mushrooms – like Shiitake or Reishi - are also said to have immune-boosting and stress-busting qualities. So they’re perfect candidates for consumers interested in the food as medicine trend and an attractive choice for manufacturers developing new functional food products.

As consumers increasingly turn to more sustainable options, brands are also looking for new solutions to green up their product portfolios. Mushrooms tend to only require a small amount of land, energy and water to produce and their meat-like texture and rich flavours are perfect for alternative snack products or vegetarian, vegan or lighter menu options.  

Mushroom varieties: knowing your portobello from your porcini

There are over 10,000 types of mushroom but only a handful make it onto our retail shelves. In fact, the white button variety makes up 90% of the mushrooms eaten in the western world. Their mild flavour makes them versatile, so they can be incorporated into a wide range of dishes, from soups and salads to pizza toppings. Portobello mushrooms are another common to-go option, ideal for grilling and stuffing.    

Then you have your more gourmet choices, like oyster, shiitake, chanterelle, morel or porcini. Shiitake and porcini have a rich, meaty flavour, while chanterelle and morel offer more delicate, nutty notes. Being relatively easy to produce and benefitting from growing demand, oyster and shiitake mushrooms have become a lucrative crop for part-time mushroom growers. And as consumers become more discerning about their favourite fungi, chefs are also getting more creative about how they prepare them - from smoking, pickling and searing in main dishes to preparing wild mushroom cappuccinos for an unorthodox pick-me-up.  

   

Riding the trend: Snacks, coffee and alternative meat

Early mushroom entrepreneurs quickly understood that consumers wanted the nutrition without the cooking – or the risk of mushiness. So they focussed on creating grab-and-go, shelf stable snack options. This meant that mushrooms appeared as functional powder in wellness bars or dried as crisps or jerky, marketed as a low-fat option for snack addicts. Mushroom coffee, which typically blends black coffee with powdered medicinal mushrooms, appeared in health shops and trendy coffee shops.  Some adventurous ingredient manufacturers, like Wixon, even experimented with using mushrooms’ better-for-you benefits in ice cream, beverages and cookies.

While the majority of alternative meat providers have focussed on soy, wheat or pea protein, a handful of start-ups are also experimenting with fungi as the new ingredient behind the perfect faux steak. Experts claim that their fibrous texture makes it easier to imitate a wider variety of meat and due to its neutral flavour no masking agents are required. So far, products have included both meat and seafood, from bacon strips to crab cakes.

Mushrooms as meat: NY Mushroom Co. and Prime Roots  

Douglas Cohen is on a mission to change the world, one mushroom at a time. Until 2016, he ran a successful butcher shop in New York City. But after going vegetarian, he sold up and started exploring meat alternatives that offered the same taste and texture, without the environmental impact. This led him to the humble mushroom. His product - healthy, minimally-processed mushroom jerky - is currently available in three flavours: Sweet and Tangy BBQ, Smoky Maple Bacon and Pineapple Teriyaki. So far, the company has been focusing on growing online sales, but they’re looking to get more local distribution points on board this year.    

Joshua Nixon and Kimberlie Le, the founders of Prime Roots, are also convinced that fungi are the future of food. Choosing to steer away from beef and burgers, they use the “superprotein” Koji, a fermented fungus, to create all manner of alternative products, from salmon and lobster to chicken, sausages and bacon. Having developed a following of over 10,000 fans, they’re committed to being a community-driven company, letting consumers choose which products they should launch. Last time, bacon strips came out on top – and their stock sold out in a matter of hours. The company has now set up a large production facility in California and are gearing up to start online sales to bring their products to the masses.

Standing out in a crowded market: Clean protein and affordability

When it comes to alternatives, some consumers are torn. The convenience and variety are appealing. But concerns around GMO ingredients, ultra-processing and lost nutrients sometimes holds them back. Price has also been a sticking point, preventing widespread adoption across all consumer groups.

This is where mushrooms come into their own. Mushroom meat or dried snacks typically require less processing than other plant-based products, making it easier to attract consumers seeking more natural options. Due to lower production costs, companies like Prime Roots also claim that they can offer their “meat” at more affordable price points. And these two critical USPs might just help fabulous fungi to carve out a niche within the crowded but growing plant-based alternatives market.

Business opportunities

Manufacturers

  • Reach out to fungi-based meat start-ups to see how their products could add value to your existing ranges.
  • Consider using mushrooms or mushroom powders to add a nutritional boost to functional products.  

Food Service

  • Try incorporating some seasonal or gourmet mushroom varieties in your menu. Go beyond burgers and pizza toppings and experiment with some creative alternatives that can get veggie or vegan customers drooling.
  • If your regulars are interested in trying something new, pep up your drinks menu with some mushroom-based functional beverages.

Retail

  • Consider connecting with local producers to treat your customers to lesser-known seasonal varieties, along with recipe ideas to help them learn more about preparing and enjoying them.
  • Contact local suppliers to see if they offer any mushroom-based snacks that you could incorporate in your grab-and-go range.

Written by
Laura Robinson

From policy geek to digital consultant, Laura has always enjoyed bringing people together through words or tools to drive positive change. She is most proud of finally taking the leap into entrepreneurship by founding Pink Pear Agency - a network of passionate specialists who help food businesses grow innovative projects and share their stories with the world. Laura is currently interested in project development and management, digital tools, content strategy and copywriting.

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  • Read Unlimited Articles
  • Access Member Directory
  • Get Event Discounts

There seems to be two camps when it comes to mushrooms.

Some people can’t get enough of their hearty, meat-like texture and their umami flavour that brings a unique depth to a myriad of dishes. Whereas others have been put off by memories of badly cooked soggy or slimy slices of mush.

Thankfully, innovative food companies have rushed to the rescue and are now offering plenty of ways to enjoy this versatile and healthy ingredient – from mushroom bacon and seafood to savoury snacks, like jerky and crisps. Even Big Food is getting involved, with Kellogg investing $35 million in Myco Technology and General Mills backing Purely Elizabeth’s mushroom-powered functional wellness bars.  

Then perhaps it’s no surprise that mushrooms have been hailed to be one of the key trends to watch in 2020, with the global market projected to jump from $34.1 billion in 2015 to $69.3 billion by 2024. So, let’s take a closer look at what these new fungi on the block can offer.

Trend drivers: health benefits and greener product options

Mushrooms boast some glowing health credentials. They’re not only packed full of antioxidants, essential vitamins and fibre but apoptogenic mushrooms – like Shiitake or Reishi - are also said to have immune-boosting and stress-busting qualities. So they’re perfect candidates for consumers interested in the food as medicine trend and an attractive choice for manufacturers developing new functional food products.

As consumers increasingly turn to more sustainable options, brands are also looking for new solutions to green up their product portfolios. Mushrooms tend to only require a small amount of land, energy and water to produce and their meat-like texture and rich flavours are perfect for alternative snack products or vegetarian, vegan or lighter menu options.  

Mushroom varieties: knowing your portobello from your porcini

There are over 10,000 types of mushroom but only a handful make it onto our retail shelves. In fact, the white button variety makes up 90% of the mushrooms eaten in the western world. Their mild flavour makes them versatile, so they can be incorporated into a wide range of dishes, from soups and salads to pizza toppings. Portobello mushrooms are another common to-go option, ideal for grilling and stuffing.    

Then you have your more gourmet choices, like oyster, shiitake, chanterelle, morel or porcini. Shiitake and porcini have a rich, meaty flavour, while chanterelle and morel offer more delicate, nutty notes. Being relatively easy to produce and benefitting from growing demand, oyster and shiitake mushrooms have become a lucrative crop for part-time mushroom growers. And as consumers become more discerning about their favourite fungi, chefs are also getting more creative about how they prepare them - from smoking, pickling and searing in main dishes to preparing wild mushroom cappuccinos for an unorthodox pick-me-up.  

   

Riding the trend: Snacks, coffee and alternative meat

Early mushroom entrepreneurs quickly understood that consumers wanted the nutrition without the cooking – or the risk of mushiness. So they focussed on creating grab-and-go, shelf stable snack options. This meant that mushrooms appeared as functional powder in wellness bars or dried as crisps or jerky, marketed as a low-fat option for snack addicts. Mushroom coffee, which typically blends black coffee with powdered medicinal mushrooms, appeared in health shops and trendy coffee shops.  Some adventurous ingredient manufacturers, like Wixon, even experimented with using mushrooms’ better-for-you benefits in ice cream, beverages and cookies.

While the majority of alternative meat providers have focussed on soy, wheat or pea protein, a handful of start-ups are also experimenting with fungi as the new ingredient behind the perfect faux steak. Experts claim that their fibrous texture makes it easier to imitate a wider variety of meat and due to its neutral flavour no masking agents are required. So far, products have included both meat and seafood, from bacon strips to crab cakes.

Mushrooms as meat: NY Mushroom Co. and Prime Roots  

Douglas Cohen is on a mission to change the world, one mushroom at a time. Until 2016, he ran a successful butcher shop in New York City. But after going vegetarian, he sold up and started exploring meat alternatives that offered the same taste and texture, without the environmental impact. This led him to the humble mushroom. His product - healthy, minimally-processed mushroom jerky - is currently available in three flavours: Sweet and Tangy BBQ, Smoky Maple Bacon and Pineapple Teriyaki. So far, the company has been focusing on growing online sales, but they’re looking to get more local distribution points on board this year.    

Joshua Nixon and Kimberlie Le, the founders of Prime Roots, are also convinced that fungi are the future of food. Choosing to steer away from beef and burgers, they use the “superprotein” Koji, a fermented fungus, to create all manner of alternative products, from salmon and lobster to chicken, sausages and bacon. Having developed a following of over 10,000 fans, they’re committed to being a community-driven company, letting consumers choose which products they should launch. Last time, bacon strips came out on top – and their stock sold out in a matter of hours. The company has now set up a large production facility in California and are gearing up to start online sales to bring their products to the masses.

Standing out in a crowded market: Clean protein and affordability

When it comes to alternatives, some consumers are torn. The convenience and variety are appealing. But concerns around GMO ingredients, ultra-processing and lost nutrients sometimes holds them back. Price has also been a sticking point, preventing widespread adoption across all consumer groups.

This is where mushrooms come into their own. Mushroom meat or dried snacks typically require less processing than other plant-based products, making it easier to attract consumers seeking more natural options. Due to lower production costs, companies like Prime Roots also claim that they can offer their “meat” at more affordable price points. And these two critical USPs might just help fabulous fungi to carve out a niche within the crowded but growing plant-based alternatives market.

Business opportunities

Manufacturers

  • Reach out to fungi-based meat start-ups to see how their products could add value to your existing ranges.
  • Consider using mushrooms or mushroom powders to add a nutritional boost to functional products.  

Food Service

  • Try incorporating some seasonal or gourmet mushroom varieties in your menu. Go beyond burgers and pizza toppings and experiment with some creative alternatives that can get veggie or vegan customers drooling.
  • If your regulars are interested in trying something new, pep up your drinks menu with some mushroom-based functional beverages.

Retail

  • Consider connecting with local producers to treat your customers to lesser-known seasonal varieties, along with recipe ideas to help them learn more about preparing and enjoying them.
  • Contact local suppliers to see if they offer any mushroom-based snacks that you could incorporate in your grab-and-go range.

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There seems to be two camps when it comes to mushrooms.

Some people can’t get enough of their hearty, meat-like texture and their umami flavour that brings a unique depth to a myriad of dishes. Whereas others have been put off by memories of badly cooked soggy or slimy slices of mush.

Thankfully, innovative food companies have rushed to the rescue and are now offering plenty of ways to enjoy this versatile and healthy ingredient – from mushroom bacon and seafood to savoury snacks, like jerky and crisps. Even Big Food is getting involved, with Kellogg investing $35 million in Myco Technology and General Mills backing Purely Elizabeth’s mushroom-powered functional wellness bars.  

Then perhaps it’s no surprise that mushrooms have been hailed to be one of the key trends to watch in 2020, with the global market projected to jump from $34.1 billion in 2015 to $69.3 billion by 2024. So, let’s take a closer look at what these new fungi on the block can offer.

Trend drivers: health benefits and greener product options

Mushrooms boast some glowing health credentials. They’re not only packed full of antioxidants, essential vitamins and fibre but apoptogenic mushrooms – like Shiitake or Reishi - are also said to have immune-boosting and stress-busting qualities. So they’re perfect candidates for consumers interested in the food as medicine trend and an attractive choice for manufacturers developing new functional food products.

As consumers increasingly turn to more sustainable options, brands are also looking for new solutions to green up their product portfolios. Mushrooms tend to only require a small amount of land, energy and water to produce and their meat-like texture and rich flavours are perfect for alternative snack products or vegetarian, vegan or lighter menu options.  

Mushroom varieties: knowing your portobello from your porcini

There are over 10,000 types of mushroom but only a handful make it onto our retail shelves. In fact, the white button variety makes up 90% of the mushrooms eaten in the western world. Their mild flavour makes them versatile, so they can be incorporated into a wide range of dishes, from soups and salads to pizza toppings. Portobello mushrooms are another common to-go option, ideal for grilling and stuffing.    

Then you have your more gourmet choices, like oyster, shiitake, chanterelle, morel or porcini. Shiitake and porcini have a rich, meaty flavour, while chanterelle and morel offer more delicate, nutty notes. Being relatively easy to produce and benefitting from growing demand, oyster and shiitake mushrooms have become a lucrative crop for part-time mushroom growers. And as consumers become more discerning about their favourite fungi, chefs are also getting more creative about how they prepare them - from smoking, pickling and searing in main dishes to preparing wild mushroom cappuccinos for an unorthodox pick-me-up.  

   

Riding the trend: Snacks, coffee and alternative meat

Early mushroom entrepreneurs quickly understood that consumers wanted the nutrition without the cooking – or the risk of mushiness. So they focussed on creating grab-and-go, shelf stable snack options. This meant that mushrooms appeared as functional powder in wellness bars or dried as crisps or jerky, marketed as a low-fat option for snack addicts. Mushroom coffee, which typically blends black coffee with powdered medicinal mushrooms, appeared in health shops and trendy coffee shops.  Some adventurous ingredient manufacturers, like Wixon, even experimented with using mushrooms’ better-for-you benefits in ice cream, beverages and cookies.

While the majority of alternative meat providers have focussed on soy, wheat or pea protein, a handful of start-ups are also experimenting with fungi as the new ingredient behind the perfect faux steak. Experts claim that their fibrous texture makes it easier to imitate a wider variety of meat and due to its neutral flavour no masking agents are required. So far, products have included both meat and seafood, from bacon strips to crab cakes.

Mushrooms as meat: NY Mushroom Co. and Prime Roots  

Douglas Cohen is on a mission to change the world, one mushroom at a time. Until 2016, he ran a successful butcher shop in New York City. But after going vegetarian, he sold up and started exploring meat alternatives that offered the same taste and texture, without the environmental impact. This led him to the humble mushroom. His product - healthy, minimally-processed mushroom jerky - is currently available in three flavours: Sweet and Tangy BBQ, Smoky Maple Bacon and Pineapple Teriyaki. So far, the company has been focusing on growing online sales, but they’re looking to get more local distribution points on board this year.    

Joshua Nixon and Kimberlie Le, the founders of Prime Roots, are also convinced that fungi are the future of food. Choosing to steer away from beef and burgers, they use the “superprotein” Koji, a fermented fungus, to create all manner of alternative products, from salmon and lobster to chicken, sausages and bacon. Having developed a following of over 10,000 fans, they’re committed to being a community-driven company, letting consumers choose which products they should launch. Last time, bacon strips came out on top – and their stock sold out in a matter of hours. The company has now set up a large production facility in California and are gearing up to start online sales to bring their products to the masses.

Standing out in a crowded market: Clean protein and affordability

When it comes to alternatives, some consumers are torn. The convenience and variety are appealing. But concerns around GMO ingredients, ultra-processing and lost nutrients sometimes holds them back. Price has also been a sticking point, preventing widespread adoption across all consumer groups.

This is where mushrooms come into their own. Mushroom meat or dried snacks typically require less processing than other plant-based products, making it easier to attract consumers seeking more natural options. Due to lower production costs, companies like Prime Roots also claim that they can offer their “meat” at more affordable price points. And these two critical USPs might just help fabulous fungi to carve out a niche within the crowded but growing plant-based alternatives market.

Business opportunities

Manufacturers

  • Reach out to fungi-based meat start-ups to see how their products could add value to your existing ranges.
  • Consider using mushrooms or mushroom powders to add a nutritional boost to functional products.  

Food Service

  • Try incorporating some seasonal or gourmet mushroom varieties in your menu. Go beyond burgers and pizza toppings and experiment with some creative alternatives that can get veggie or vegan customers drooling.
  • If your regulars are interested in trying something new, pep up your drinks menu with some mushroom-based functional beverages.

Retail

  • Consider connecting with local producers to treat your customers to lesser-known seasonal varieties, along with recipe ideas to help them learn more about preparing and enjoying them.
  • Contact local suppliers to see if they offer any mushroom-based snacks that you could incorporate in your grab-and-go range.

There seems to be two camps when it comes to mushrooms.

Some people can’t get enough of their hearty, meat-like texture and their umami flavour that brings a unique depth to a myriad of dishes. Whereas others have been put off by memories of badly cooked soggy or slimy slices of mush.

Thankfully, innovative food companies have rushed to the rescue and are now offering plenty of ways to enjoy this versatile and healthy ingredient – from mushroom bacon and seafood to savoury snacks, like jerky and crisps. Even Big Food is getting involved, with Kellogg investing $35 million in Myco Technology and General Mills backing Purely Elizabeth’s mushroom-powered functional wellness bars.  

Then perhaps it’s no surprise that mushrooms have been hailed to be one of the key trends to watch in 2020, with the global market projected to jump from $34.1 billion in 2015 to $69.3 billion by 2024. So, let’s take a closer look at what these new fungi on the block can offer.

Trend drivers: health benefits and greener product options

Mushrooms boast some glowing health credentials. They’re not only packed full of antioxidants, essential vitamins and fibre but apoptogenic mushrooms – like Shiitake or Reishi - are also said to have immune-boosting and stress-busting qualities. So they’re perfect candidates for consumers interested in the food as medicine trend and an attractive choice for manufacturers developing new functional food products.

As consumers increasingly turn to more sustainable options, brands are also looking for new solutions to green up their product portfolios. Mushrooms tend to only require a small amount of land, energy and water to produce and their meat-like texture and rich flavours are perfect for alternative snack products or vegetarian, vegan or lighter menu options.  

Mushroom varieties: knowing your portobello from your porcini

There are over 10,000 types of mushroom but only a handful make it onto our retail shelves. In fact, the white button variety makes up 90% of the mushrooms eaten in the western world. Their mild flavour makes them versatile, so they can be incorporated into a wide range of dishes, from soups and salads to pizza toppings. Portobello mushrooms are another common to-go option, ideal for grilling and stuffing.    

Then you have your more gourmet choices, like oyster, shiitake, chanterelle, morel or porcini. Shiitake and porcini have a rich, meaty flavour, while chanterelle and morel offer more delicate, nutty notes. Being relatively easy to produce and benefitting from growing demand, oyster and shiitake mushrooms have become a lucrative crop for part-time mushroom growers. And as consumers become more discerning about their favourite fungi, chefs are also getting more creative about how they prepare them - from smoking, pickling and searing in main dishes to preparing wild mushroom cappuccinos for an unorthodox pick-me-up.  

   

Riding the trend: Snacks, coffee and alternative meat

Early mushroom entrepreneurs quickly understood that consumers wanted the nutrition without the cooking – or the risk of mushiness. So they focussed on creating grab-and-go, shelf stable snack options. This meant that mushrooms appeared as functional powder in wellness bars or dried as crisps or jerky, marketed as a low-fat option for snack addicts. Mushroom coffee, which typically blends black coffee with powdered medicinal mushrooms, appeared in health shops and trendy coffee shops.  Some adventurous ingredient manufacturers, like Wixon, even experimented with using mushrooms’ better-for-you benefits in ice cream, beverages and cookies.

While the majority of alternative meat providers have focussed on soy, wheat or pea protein, a handful of start-ups are also experimenting with fungi as the new ingredient behind the perfect faux steak. Experts claim that their fibrous texture makes it easier to imitate a wider variety of meat and due to its neutral flavour no masking agents are required. So far, products have included both meat and seafood, from bacon strips to crab cakes.

Mushrooms as meat: NY Mushroom Co. and Prime Roots  

Douglas Cohen is on a mission to change the world, one mushroom at a time. Until 2016, he ran a successful butcher shop in New York City. But after going vegetarian, he sold up and started exploring meat alternatives that offered the same taste and texture, without the environmental impact. This led him to the humble mushroom. His product - healthy, minimally-processed mushroom jerky - is currently available in three flavours: Sweet and Tangy BBQ, Smoky Maple Bacon and Pineapple Teriyaki. So far, the company has been focusing on growing online sales, but they’re looking to get more local distribution points on board this year.    

Joshua Nixon and Kimberlie Le, the founders of Prime Roots, are also convinced that fungi are the future of food. Choosing to steer away from beef and burgers, they use the “superprotein” Koji, a fermented fungus, to create all manner of alternative products, from salmon and lobster to chicken, sausages and bacon. Having developed a following of over 10,000 fans, they’re committed to being a community-driven company, letting consumers choose which products they should launch. Last time, bacon strips came out on top – and their stock sold out in a matter of hours. The company has now set up a large production facility in California and are gearing up to start online sales to bring their products to the masses.

Standing out in a crowded market: Clean protein and affordability

When it comes to alternatives, some consumers are torn. The convenience and variety are appealing. But concerns around GMO ingredients, ultra-processing and lost nutrients sometimes holds them back. Price has also been a sticking point, preventing widespread adoption across all consumer groups.

This is where mushrooms come into their own. Mushroom meat or dried snacks typically require less processing than other plant-based products, making it easier to attract consumers seeking more natural options. Due to lower production costs, companies like Prime Roots also claim that they can offer their “meat” at more affordable price points. And these two critical USPs might just help fabulous fungi to carve out a niche within the crowded but growing plant-based alternatives market.

Business opportunities

Manufacturers

  • Reach out to fungi-based meat start-ups to see how their products could add value to your existing ranges.
  • Consider using mushrooms or mushroom powders to add a nutritional boost to functional products.  

Food Service

  • Try incorporating some seasonal or gourmet mushroom varieties in your menu. Go beyond burgers and pizza toppings and experiment with some creative alternatives that can get veggie or vegan customers drooling.
  • If your regulars are interested in trying something new, pep up your drinks menu with some mushroom-based functional beverages.

Retail

  • Consider connecting with local producers to treat your customers to lesser-known seasonal varieties, along with recipe ideas to help them learn more about preparing and enjoying them.
  • Contact local suppliers to see if they offer any mushroom-based snacks that you could incorporate in your grab-and-go range.

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