While you wouldn’t know it at the moment with the current heatwave, Brits often suffer from a vitamin D deficiency. National surveys in the UK have found that approximately one in five people have low vitamin D levels, according to the British Nutrition Foundation.
Vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body and can keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy. Though essential for good health, it’s also notoriously difficult to get enough of the nutrient through food sources.
Enter Scelta Mushrooms, which unravelled the DNA of a mushroom a few years ago and discovered that if they flashed the mushrooms with a UV light, they could naturally enrich the vitamin D.
While the UV technique is nothing new to the retail market, with supermarkets like Tesco and M&S featuring enhanced mushrooms, Scelta Mushrooms are the first in the world allowed to sell a processed version.
The Dutch company’s vitamin-bolstered cooked mushrooms have received European Food Safety Authority approval for use in the foodservice market as a novel food. The product is sealed in a pouch, and there is no change to the shape and colour of the mushrooms, despite the processing.
Roy Janssen, marketing manager at Scelta Mushrooms, tells Food Spark that the company envisions a number of trends it could tap into with its new range, with health being a big factor.
“We saw in the market and saw from research there is a big shortage in vitamin D, and the main reason is we are living indoors more and of course you get vitamin D through your skin,” he says.
“Second to that, we saw that other vitamins are being added to food. It’s a strand of healthy and functional food that people are more aware of, and we especially saw that in the US, with multiple products being enriched with various types of vitamins and minerals. We saw the trend coming there and starting to hit Europe as well.”
Shelf life and stock issues
The vitamin D mushrooms are freeze dried by Scelta to add value for the foodservice industry, says Janssen, including a two-year shelf life that provides consistency for chains and no stock issue, as well as easier processing in factories.
“Also, since the mushrooms are already cooked, they can be served in seconds, saving precious time in the kitchen. Compared to cans, no additives are used, making it a clean-label product with a fresh mushroom taste and bite. In the pouch, there is nothing else than 100% mushrooms,” he says.
In the UK, the mushrooms would allow quick-service restaurants and full-service restaurant chains to differentiate themselves in the market, according to Janssen.
“We see that customers want to know more about what they are eating, and there is also a trend for personalised nutrition,” he comments.
“Based on global studies, we also know there is a shortage of vitamin D, so demand is only going to increase. Mushrooms are the only vegetable where you can enhance them with vitamin D. You can’t do this with any other fruit or vegetable.”
But retail is also an opportunity that Scelta are eyeing, according to Janssen.
“People want their food faster and faster, so convenience is very important to them. The process that we use is basically we boil mushrooms in a pouch, so if you open the bag there will be a cooked mushroom as well as mushroom juice that has been cooked out of the mushroom. This means you will only have to heat the mushroom to make it warm and not actually have to prepare it again, so it saves a lot of time,” he says.
“It’s an excellent base to put in a sauce for steaks or a mushroom soup, which can be on the table in minutes, but people still have the experience of eating a fresh mushroom.”
Scelta has seven factories that produce 150,000 tonnes of mushrooms annually, with the new products coming to market in October.
The company is also working to extend the technology to other ranges, including dried and powdered mushrooms.