Foodtech / Science
Will the future of vegan seafood alternatives be 3D printable?
A new research collaboration will explore if this is a suitable way going forward. And, the conditions look promising.
28 Oct 2022

3D food printing and mycoprotein are both hot trends in foodtech — on their own. Could they also be combined, creating a brand-new field of development within alternative protein?

Revo Foods develops new food processing technologies for plant-based seafood products, including 3D food printing. The company’s first products include salmon and tuna alternatives, sold in more than 3.000 locations across Europe, making Revo Foods one of the leaders in plant-based seafood. It also makes them an ideal partner for Mycorena, the multi-award-winning biotech company developing alternative protein from edible mushrooms, to bring the latter’s innovation — the previously developed and adapted mycoprotein — to the market at the fastest possible pace. Mycorena is currently building a large-scale pilot plant in Sweden and the two will now explore the use of mycoprotein for 3D food printing to develop new seafood alternatives.

— Mycoprotein is a very interesting ingredient for vegan seafood alternatives. However, we were previously limited in using it in our proprietary 3D food printing process as the fibrous behaviour was altered. We see huge potential to develop the printable mycoprotein further, which can lift meat or seafood alternatives to the next quality level, necessary for large-scale consumer adoption, says Robin Simsa, CEO at Revo Foods.

Revo and Mycorena.

Meat and seafood alternatives are gaining increased traction from consumers but the most attractive options, such as whole-cut steak or fish fillet, are still difficult to produce. In order to do it, 3D food printing is by many seen as the most promising technology. Healthy vegan ingredients, such as mycoprotein, are of main interest for the production due to their inherent fibrous behaviour. However, this is also what could be limiting for certain processing methods such as 3D food printing, which is what the new research project aims to tackle.

By combining the meat-like properties of mycoprotein with the unrestricted shaping possibilities of 3D food printing, the vision is to create a whole new, realistic meat-like product segment and significantly narrow the gap between animal products and plant-based or vegan alternatives. The advantage of food 3D printing compared to more traditional production methods, such as extrusion or moulding, is the creation of complex products with much more realistic sensory properties and mouthfeel. This eliminates the need for expensive tooling and can reduce storage space and time by being able to produce on demand instead of batch-wise. One common limitation of the technique is related to the material selection as printers often only can print paste or mixtures with the right fluidity, making printed products with a fibrous texture, such as Mycorena’s current mycoprotein ingredient Promyc, a promising ingredient for food producers. Just like Promyc, the printable mycoprotein will have a soft fibrous texture, light colour, and neutral taste to function as an option for meat analogues, especially seafood alternatives.

— We have always been interested in food 3D printing and saw that creating a printable mycelium material would probably open doors to creating amazing, unique products. With this technology, the possibilities for texture and form are on another level compared to current meat analogues, being restricted only by imagination, not processing methods, says Paulo Teixeira, CIO at Mycorena.

— We believe we will create some truly unique products here, making it easy for consumers to enjoy delicious seafood in a healthy and sustainable way, Kristina Karlsson, R&D manager at Mycorena, adds.

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