Esencia Foods Debuts Europe’s First Whole-Cut Mycelium Seafood at Major German Food Show
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German alt-meat company Esencia Foods hosted Europe’s first tasting of mycelium-derived seafood at the Anuga gastronomic fair in Cologne. The startup makes whole-cut whitefish like seabass and cod comprised of just two ingredients using solid-state fermentation.
The startup, which was founded in August 2022 by Hendrik Kate and Bruno Scocozza, began by creating mycelium alternatives to scallops and salmon and how now finalized prototypes for whitefish species like seabass and cod.
Esencia leverages a proprietary solid-state fermentation process that involves growing microbes atop an inoculated solid surface. The core ingredient for this process is a strain of edible fungi often used in the food industry. And unlike many “plant-based processed products”, the company claims its biomass is composed of two ingredients only, and adds that its mycelium alternatives are high in protein, fibre and omega-3, though it is not disclosing the exact ingredient list (previous coverage suggested the final product has 5-6).
Biomass fermentation uses considerably less land, water and energy, and produces a fraction of the greenhouse gases associated with traditional animal husbandry, for an equivalent amount of protein, according to food scientist Dr Martin Wickham.
‘A new generation of protein’
Esencia’s mycelium-derived whitefish was on display for tastings at Anuga – which takes place biennially and is one of the world’s largest food industry trade show fairs – with the company looking to ink partnerships with restaurants, foodservice distributors and food corporations at the event.
“Tastings at selected industry-focused events will help us to win important partners, but also to fine-tune our products and learn which dishes can be most successful at the market,” said Kaye. “The number of samples is limited. Tasters should be prepared to try not just seafood alternatives, but the start of a new generation of protein to feed humanity.”
Esencia, which raised $500,000 in a pre-seed round last September, isn’t the only company that will be exhibiting alt-seafood products at Anuga. Spanish brand Zyrcular Foods will showcase its plant-based tuna and salmon alternatives, alongside a Smashburger at the event.
Mycelium meat and alt-seafood on the rise
While the alternative seafood space is increasingly crowded on the plant-based side and boasts a handful of cultivated startups, Esencia’s only other major whole-cut mycelium seafood competitor is US company Aqua Cultured Foods, which says it’s the world’s first whole-cut microbial-fermented seafood producer, makes analogues to whole-muscle ahi tuna, whitefish, shrimp and calamari, among others. Earlier this year, the startup raised $5.5M in a seed funding round to accelerate production and scale up.
In July, California’s The Better Meat Co and Israel’s Oshi (previously Plantish) signed an MoU to develop a salmon alternative – the former is known for its B2B mycelium ingredients. Last year, scientists in Copenhagen began working with two Michelin-starred restaurant Alchemist to develop mycelium-based seafood.
Other companies working in the mycelium meat space include Meati, Libre Foods, Prime Roots, MyForest Foods and Adamo Foods, among others. Meanwhile, Canadian brand Seed to Surf is also making vegan whitefish but with a whole-foods plant-based approach- celeriac is the base ingredient.
The seafood analogue sector has seen a flurry of developments this year. Vegan startups like Konscious Foods and Hooked Foods have secured funding, and two European brands received a €1.5M grant to create 3D-printed mycoprotein to replace seafood, which debuted last month. Other product launches include South Korean startup Unlimeat‘s upcycled vegan tuna and Singapore-based HAPPIEE‘s vegan shrimp and squid in the UK.
Over in the cultivated seafood category, brands like BlueNalu and Bluu Seafood secured investment this year, on the back of investment in the industry tripling between 2016-22. Other companies in this space include producers include Umami Meats, Avant Meats, Shiok Meats, Bluu Seafood, Finless Foods, Marinas Bio, and Wildtype Foods (whose 2022 $100M Series B raise was the largest-ever single cultivated seafood round).