With the clean label movement taking over the food and beverage industry, conventional preservatives are on the chopping block. Preservatives do not fit well within what consumers view as being clean label or natural for a variety of reasons; the label name itself, the knowledge of how it is made and where it is from, and the known or perceived health impacts. On the flip side, for the product formulator, preservatives are an essential component of the product that ensures it will have a suitably long shelf life free from the growth of spoilage organisms and pathogenic bacteria. It is really a paradox—consumers do not want preservatives in their food and beverages, but they do want quick and convenient options that have a long shelf life and are natural and healthy.
White button mushrooms contain a large amount of fibres, such as chitosan and beta-glucan; when extracted in a solution, these fibres can act as a very effective antimicrobial ingredient. Further, white button mushroom extract is a natural antimicrobial that is effective against all types of spoilage microorganisms (yeast, mold, and bacteria) at low use rates, making it a cost-effective solution for the protection of foods and beverages.
Chinova Bioworks has pioneered the extraction of white button mushroom fibers for use as a natural antimicrobial in foods and beverages. It is a direct replacement for artificial preservatives that allows for a clean label. Further, the ingredient is vegan, paleo, Whole30 and keto friendly, kosher and halal certified, gluten-free, non-GMO and organic compliant, making it suitable for strict dietary lifestyles.
While it has great antimicrobial properties, the main benefit of white button mushroom extract is the health impact for consumers. The extract’s mixture of dietary fibres is known to have positive effects towards lowering LDL cholesterol and improving heart health. The biggest impact on health comes from simply removing an artificial preservative. Benzoate, for example, can appear in various forms (sodium benzoate, potassium benzoate, or benzoic acid) and is perceived by some consumers to be a precursor to the carcinogenic chemical benzene, and regardless of scientific accuracy, perception is a reality in that consumer’s mind. In this and many other situations, replacing an artificial preservative with white button mushroom extract can deliver on consumer expectations and help companies looking to position their brands as clean label.
In 2011, a scientific opinion from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) found that the main fibre of white button mushroom extract, chitosan, “contributes to the maintenance of normal blood cholesterol levels,” while the other fiber in the white button mushroom extract, beta-glucan, is listed by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a dietary fibre for the health benefits it provides, such as lowering cholesterol and improving heart health.
Consumers today care tremendously about what they are consuming, and rightfully so. Product formulators want to use natural and healthy ingredients, but can be limited by different constraints. Chinova Bioworks’ ingredient can be positioned as “mushroom extract” or “white button mushroom extract”—attractive positioning on a label, as it is transparent and easy for consumers to understand.
As mushrooms continue to gain popularity within the natural products industry, mushroom fibre extract provides a new answer to a longstanding problem for both brands and consumers. Today’s mushroom innovation goes beyond providing an alternative source of food or protein, and into helping to improve the freshness, quality and shelf life of foods and beverages.
David Brown is COO and co-founder of Chinova Bioworks, a food technology company that was founded in 2016 to develop natural, clean-label preservatives extracted from mushrooms for the food and beverage industry. He has been working at the forefront of developing bio-based ingredients from sustainable production sources, particularly from the underutilized mushroom family. Brown earned his bachelor’s in chemistry from the University of Alberta.