After a few years of hard graft trying to convince buyers and manufacturers that brands like Quorn and Linda McCartney were not going to be enough to feed the future meat-free market, Myco Foods finally has people’s attention.
“When we first started out years ago it did feel like we were banging our head against a brick wall occasionally,” Jay Croslegh, who co-founded the company in 2016, tells Food Spark. “We said plant-based was coming and growing and people looked at us like we had two heads. Then all of sudden, 18 months or two years later, it’s almost like the Western world caught up. When Greggs launched its product, that was a bit of a boost for the industry and gave brand-name recognition to the meat-free market. From our point of view, manufacturers are trying to catch up and get ahead of the curve, and with our product you can put a seasoning pack with it, put it through machinery and they can then be at the front edge of the industry.”
The company’s meat replacement product, called Hooba, is produced using the root ball of the oyster mushroom – a by-product of the growing process. It mimics minced pork and can be used in all sorts of applications, according to Croslegh.
“The oyster mushroom stalks are naturally quite bitter, with a tough texture, but after a carefully timed process using controlled temperatures, the flavour is neutralised and the texture changes to a meat-like consistency,” he explains. ”If you break open a raw oyster mushroom it very much has the style of a piece of meat with the long strands and almost a muscle fibre within it.”
Addo Food Group, a producer of chilled savoury pastry products, has used Hooba to produce a range of vegan snacking products under its brand Wall’s. This includes a Jumbo Roll made with Hooba, oats and a seasoning mix to give it the taste of the brand’s regular sausage roll recipes. It is launching into Tesco next month and is already available in selected Asda stores.
Not just retail products
While Myco Foods previously had products branded under the company name, it is now focusing on targeting the manufacturing and foodservice sector. Croslegh says that Hooba already appears in a number of own-label items for discount retailers and a couple of large pub groups.
“We just launched a product that is going out next year with a large coffee brand; it’s a chicken-style product that we developed for them that’s being used as a sandwich filling,” he reveals. “We are also working on a pork-pie-style product that is hopefully launching early next year. Whatever you can do with mince or chicken bits, we can do with our product now. There really is no limit and that’s the beauty of the versatility of our product.”
Croslegh believes Hooba also offers a better texture to what’s currently available on the market, while the absence of soy gives it advantages in terms of allergens. Additionally, the company has developed a gluten-free version.
“Our goal going forward is to keep on improving our product and to bring out a whole new range of products next year, so people have that ease of having a very clean-label product that they can work with, without it having any complicated process on their side,” he says.
As for the future of the meat-free market, Croslegh believes it’s still in its infancy.
“I don’t think the world is going to be taken over by plant-based food, [but] it’s a growing sector in the market,” he says.“It’s going to be similar to the gluten-free market, where 25 years ago if you tried to get something gluten-free it was difficult and now it’s just part of the market and a lot of products are gluten-free, not because they are targeting the market but because it’s the norm.”