Mycoproteins express the combination of health and taste – better than other alternative sources of protein to those of animal origin, as we have seen (1) – and their pioneer Marlow Foods Ltd. now makes the ingredients of Quorn® available to the food industry. An insight.
1) Mycoproteins, premise
'The mycoprotein it was first discovered in the 60s, but today its consumption and applications in the food industry continue to grow. This protein is derived from the soil-dwelling fungus Fusarium venenatum A3/5 and is used to produce the mycoproteins contained in Quorn, the major protein source of fungal origin commercially available for human consumption globally.' (2)
Le alt proteins obtained from the mushroom Fusarium venenatum they differ from other sources in several respects. First of all:
- valuable nutritional supplies. Protein with a complete portfolio of essential amino acids, (3) dietary fiber, fat, minerals. With low levels of antinutritional factors (e.g. phytates, instead present in soy and other legumes), (4)
- virtues for health already documented in scientific literature, even if not yet subjected to an authorization dossier health claims. It has regard to muscle synthesis, control of satiety and insulin levels, reduction of blood cholesterol. (5)
2) Health and taste
Health and taste meet, in mycoproteins, thanks to their delicate and neutral flavor that lends itself to a variety of natural flavors and condiments. As:
- the taste natural of Quorn is often described as umami, the fifth taste perceived by humans (in addition to sweet, salty, bitter and sour). With the prerogative, as seen, not to require the addition of salt – whose excessive intake is as widespread as it is harmful to health – without giving up the savory taste,
- consistency of mycoproteins is similar to that of animal proteins, firm and slightly chewy. There texture of Quorn products, where they are the main ingredient, it is therefore often compared to that of chicken or ground beef,
- customers they easily accept these sources of protein alternatives to those of animal origin, which also thanks to the pleasant taste can be the main ingredient of foods.
Marlow Foods has used Quorn, over the decades, to make a wide variety of meat substitutes and dishes that are recognized around the globe not only for their health benefits but also for their taste. Alternative products to hamburger, sausages, meatballs and chicken nuggets, ready-to-eat foods frozen foods, soups. But also typically veg flavors.
In the last few years, Marlow Foods has responded to the growing demand for plant based foods with products dedicated to consumers vegan, in turn available in various forms (e.g. ground, pieces and fillets), often enriched with micronutrients that tend to be lacking in the respective diets (e.g. iron, vitamin B12). As well as offering their own ingredients superfoods to other food industries. (6)
The mushroom Fusarium venenatum, the main ingredient of Quorn, is grown in large fermentation plants, in a process similar in some respects to that used for the production of beer or yogurt. The first plant, one of the largest food manufacturing plants in Europe, is located in England. The others are located on five continents from Australia and the Philippines to Thailand, South Africa and still Europe (Germany, Holland and Sweden), up to the USA
'Just last year, we commissioned our fourth fermenter at Belasis, Quorn's 'protein farm' in the north east of England. And already work is underway to build a fifth, 170,000 liter fermenter. Every week it will produce 375 tons of Quorn mycoprotein, our unique super-protein at the heart of all Quorn products. This will take ours overall annual capacity to 67,000 tonnes of mycoprotein – that's the protein equivalent of 143,000 cows! – by far the biggest facility of its kind anywhere in the world'. (Marco Bertacca, CEO)
5) Circular economy e upcycling
The circular economy is the basis of food design of Quorn, which uses the lateral streams of other agri-food products (e.g. potato starch, wheat proteins) as the main substrates for the fermentation process that produces the fungus Fusarium venenatum.
L'upcycling of co-products from other supply chains – in addition to reducing production costs, enhancing waste and optimizing their environmental management – significantly reduces the amount of raw materials needed. And so be it carbon footprint of Quorn products, and the environmental impact of its operations. Without compromising on health and taste. (6)
6) Sales prices
Prices of Quorn products obviously vary in relation to a series of factors such as country, distribution and/or administration channel, characteristics of the single product. In general, Quorn products tend to be similar in price to meat products, sometimes even slightly higher. With profitability of a much higher level, without having to feed cattle for long months or manage the veterinary aspects.
In England for example, a box of Quorn Meatless mince 500g each retails at around £2,50-3,00, a price comparable to ground beef. In the USA in turn, the Quorn Meatless Grounds they sell for about $4-5 per 12-ounce (340 g) package. The health and taste price for mycoprotein croquettes and meatballs is slightly higher, about 5-6 dollars per package.
The commitment of Marlow Foods on the various fronts of health and taste, environmental sustainability and corporate social responsibility has been awarded on numerous occasions. Among the most important international awards are:
- 'The Carbon Trust Standard for Carbon' (UK). Quorn® is the world's leading producer of alt proteins to have certified their LCA (Life Cycle Assessment), as early as 2012. And is cited as a impact story, with an LCA that was initially 13 times lower than beef, 4 times lower than poultry, and continues to improve,
- PETA's Best Vegan Meat Award (2020), with the vegan citizen produced by Quorn® for KFC which also boasts the presence of a Quorn Vegan Fillets,
- Good shopping guides (UK). GSG's ethical accreditation does not hide some areas for improvement that place Quorn® in the median area of products vegan, at the same level of Beyond Meat by Tyson Foods, with 68 points (75 the category benchmarks for vegan & vegetarian foods),
- Good Housekeeping Institute (1885), the first US magazine of consumer testing, has endorsed Quorn® recognizing the quality, health and taste of its products.
Quorn Foods is the pioneer and the leader, globally, in the production of alt proteins based on mycoproteins. Its products are distributed on five continents, in the retail physical and electronic. The B2B market began with supplies of Quorn® al food service. Health and taste also in the fast foodas well as in restaurants and cafés.
'We have been trailblazers in meat free since we sold our first Quorn product in 1985. By making our mycoprotein available to others, Marlow Ingredients will play a pivotal role in helping us achieve one of our missions – to tackle climate change by making great tasting food' (Marco Bertacca, Marlow Foods Ltd., CEO).
9) Quorn® ingredients for the food industry
The turning point is represented by the opening of Marlow Ingredients (7), a new group company that intends to supply Quorn® mycoproteins to industry and food processing companies. Quorn has meanwhile joined the Fungi Protein Association, with the aim of promoting the fermentation of mushrooms as sustainable sources of high biological value proteins. (8)
The ingredient of Quorn® is not subject to the authorization procedure established by the Novel Food Regulation (EU) No 2015/2283, given its diffusion in the Old Continent prior to 15 May 1997 - date of entry into force of the first NF Regulation (EC) No 258/1997 – and its consequent qualification as a traditional food.
Other products based on mycoproteins, on the other hand, are subject to due authorization such as novel foods and yet – despite being unlicensed – they are present on the British market. As noted in the report 'Food 2025' the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP) at the Food Standard Agency (FSA). (9)
(1) Dario Dongo and Andrea Adelmo Della Penna. Proteins from fungi and microfungi, mycoproteins, the ABC. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 12.10.22
(2) Emma J. Derbyshire, Tim JA Finnigan. Chapter 16 – Mycoprotein: A futuristic portrayal. Editors: Rajeev Bhat, Future Foods, Academic Press, 2022, Pages 287-303. ISBN 9780323910019. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-323-91001-9.00037-2
(3) Derbyshire EJ, Theobald H, Wall BT, Stephens F. Food for our future: the nutritional science behind the sustainable fungal protein – mycoprotein. A symposium review. J Nutr Sci. 2023 Apr 11;12:e44. doi: 10.1017/jns.2023.29
(4) Dario Dongo and Andrea Adelmo Della Penna. Vegetable alternatives to meat, the nutritional challenges. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 19.12.22
(5) Derbyshire Emma J., Delange Joanne (2021). Fungal Protein: What Is It and What Is the Health Evidence? A Systematic Review Focusing on Mycoprotein. Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems, 5, 2021. doi: 10.3389/fsufs.2021.581682
(6) Dario Dongo. Upcycling, the highway to research and innovation. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 1.1.23
(7) Marlow Ingredients https://www.marlowingredients.com/
(8) Mushroom Proteins Association https://www.fungiprotein.org/
(9) ACNFP. Food 2025. https://acnfp.food.gov.uk/sites/default/files/ACNFP_119-07%20HS%20Final%20.pdf ANCFP/119/07