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Plant protein powder is no longer exclusive to vegans and athletes, with significant numbers of mainstream consumers now shopping the category, according to new research commissioned by MycoTechnology, Inc., the mushroom mycelial fermentation specialist.

The survey of 725 plant protein powder users, carried out by Brightfield Group in Q1 2023, found that just 17 % of them identified as vegan. Furthermore, 38 % of the respondents in the survey who declared that they purchase only plant-based protein powders said they mixed them with dairy milk, indicating that they buy such products for reasons other than dietary lifestyle choices.

Meanwhile, fewer than half of the respondents in the survey (46 %) identified as athletes, even though as many as 77 % of them said they exercised at least three times a week. The vast majority (93 %) stated that they exercise to support their mental health.

When asked to describe themselves, 34 % of respondents were identified as ‘early adopter’ consumers. Another 31 % were ‘early majority’ shoppers, indicating a shift for plant protein powder into a more mainstream demographic.

When it comes to product quality, plant-based protein powder consumers are in broad agreement. Nearly all of them (92 %) said they would find a product more appealing if it offered higher quality protein, with 91 % attracted by a protein that is more complete. Beyond nutritional factors, 91 % of respondents said they favour products that promise a better taste.

MycoTechnology’s Marketing Director, Jonas Feliciano, commented: “These findings demonstrate that plant protein is smashing apart outdated stereotypes and is now earning strong support among mainstream consumers. The fact that so many blend their plant protein powder with milk is a strong sign that non-vegans consider plant protein to be a conventional product and a key part of a healthy diet. Most notably, all but a few of the respondents to our survey said that they considered protein quality and flavour to be of the utmost importance. The successful plant proteins of the future will be those which are able to tap into the needs and preferences of these highly discerning consumers.”

Bethany Gomez, Managing Director at Brightfield Group, added: “Plant-based protein users are a young, affluent group that prefers cleaner eating–no sugar added, all natural, preservative free–and they’re willing to pay for high quality products with that strong health profile. This group is also more likely to be using functional ingredients, like mushrooms and adaptogens, so we know they’re open to new and alternative ways to get the types of sustenance and nutrition they’re looking for. Brands that strive to offer high quality products, using cutting edge ingredients, will find a group of users ready and willing to dig in.”

A trailblazer in the development of next-generation plant proteins, MycoTechnology offers a line of plant proteins including FermentIQ PTP – a pea and rice protein blend fermented by mushroom mycelia to deliver superior performance and nutrition. Providing all essential amino acids, it has a PDCAAS (Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score) of 1.0 for ages 3 and above. Its unique fermentation process also enhances digestibility, enabling 99.9 % of the protein consumed to be easily digested. As a result, FermentIQ PTP offers a nutritional value competitive with animal and soy proteins.

MycoTechnology’s proprietary process also deodorises and de-flavours the plant proteins, offering better tasting, more neutral solutions with superior functionality in a range of applications. For those looking to take the taste of their products to the next level, MycoTechnology also offers ClearIQ – a natural, clean-label bitter blocker and flavour clarifier.

The European Commission has granted Novel Food status to pea and rice protein fermented by shiitake mushroom mycelia, trade named FermentIQä PTP and TXP, MycoTechnology’s innovative and highly functional natural plant protein ingredients. FermentIQä ingredients are produced using a patented mycelial fermentation platform that improves the sensory, functional, and nutritional attributes of plant protein. The authorisation follows a positive opinion issued earlier this year by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which said it considered the product to be safe for use in a wide range of food and beverage categories.

With Novel Food authorisation secured, USA-based MycoTechnology is set to accelerate its expansion into Europe, the company’s next major growth frontier. It has hired its first European sales representatives, based in Germany and the Netherlands, and has recently announced a partnership with Brenntag for distribution in the region. The company’s European expansion will be underpinned by its recent Series E fundraise, which generated USD 85 million to fuel growth and proliferation of its technology to address the global need for healthier, more delicious food.

Welcoming the news, Alan Hahn, MycoTechnology CEO, commented: “Authorisation means we can now offer food and beverage manufacturers access to our cutting-edge plant protein in Europe for the first time. FermentIQä is a transformative, game-changing plant protein with multiple application and nutritional advantages over other plant protein ingredients. It enables brands to overcome the technical and taste barriers associated with other plant proteins, providing consumers with a compelling reason to switch.”

The addition of sales and distribution capabilities in Europe means that MycoTechnology’s product portfolio – comprising FermentIQä plant proteins and ClearIQä flavour clarifiers – is now available globally, with sales networks already in place in North America, Latin America, and Asia.

Alan Hahn added: “Harnessing the power of mushroom mycelia to produce high quality plant protein is perfectly aligned with both consumer expectations and the EU’s commitment to sustainability and food security. It’s little surprise, then, that we are already in conversations with leading food industry players in Europe to formulate and commercialise products containing FermentIQä plant protein.”

FermentIQä is a pea and rice protein blend fermented by mushroom mycelia to deliver superior performance and nutrition. MycoTechnology’s proprietary process deodorises and de-flavours the protein, so that it offers a more neutral solution with superior functionality in a range of applications. FermentIQä is available in both powdered and texturised formats. The core powdered offering (PTP) delivers improved nutrition, taste and mouthfeel profiles that make it ideal for protein beverages and dairy alternatives, and the texturised offering (TXP) provides a superior springy and juicy texture in meat analogues.

FermentIQä PTP has a Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS) of 1 for individuals aged 3 and older, signifying that its protein content is of the highest nutritional quality. FermentIQä also offers reduced anti-nutrients and improved digestibility, allowing 99.9 % of protein consumed to be digested. A recent study found that MycoTechnology’s fermentation process improves protein quality by more than 20 % for children aged 3+, adolescents, and adults, based on the Digestible Indispensable Amino Acid Score (DIAAS). As a result, FermentIQä protein ingredients offer a nutritional value competitive with animal and soy proteins.