Editor’s Note: Chinova Bioworks is a portfolio company of AgFunder. We invested in Chinova’s $2 million seed round alongside global nutrition business DSM in August 2018.
Chinova has a patent-protected technology using an extract from white button mushrooms — chitosan — to target and thwart specific food spoilage microorganisms. Food and drink products are affected by a range of different microbes including bacteria, yeast, and mold.
Developed for the dairy and plant-based dairy industries, Chiber replaces current preservatives on the market today with a natural, clean-label alternative. The typical preservatives currently used in dairy and plant-based alternative dairy products include cultured dextrose, natamycin, nisin and artificials like sorbates, according to Natasha Dhayagude, CEO of Chinova. “These preservatives are not all considered to be clean label and consumers today do not want to see them on the ingredient list. They can also have an adverse sensory impact on products like affecting the taste as some of them are used in high concentrations. Lastly, they have a high cost in use.”
By comparison, Chiber does not have any sensory or taste impact on these products and is Vegan and Kosher certified. “It is also labeled as white button mushroom extract which is very transparent and easy to understand for consumers as it shows the source,” adds Dhayagude.
Chinova is one of a new breed of companies such as MycoWorks, Terramino Foods, and MycoTechnology that are unlocking the enormous potential of mycelium from the fungi family.
From cottage cheese to coconuts
Chinova can provide both effective broad-spectrum spoilage protection from several types of microorganisms, or can be customized to target a specific microorganism the producer is having issues with. It is relevant for dairy cottage cheese, yogurt, butter, cream cheese and sour cream — as well as for plant alternatives like products derived from almond, cashew, or coconuts.
“Being able to customize formulations is extremely unique and no other preservative in the market is able to do this. Traditional chitosan is inconsistent and variable batch to batch and is not designed for use in foods making it not very effective, whereas our product is exclusively focused on food and beverage, is consistent and is highly effective because it has been optimized for targeting specific microbial issues and extending the shelf life of food and beverage applications,” said Dhayagude.
Alt dairy product fit
The team’s focus on dairy alternatives fits with growing consumer demand globally along with a widening bevvy of dairy alternatives en route to market; it is a trend my reporter Richard Martyn Hemphill looked into during his recent foray into Israel — a land, he described, that is “flowing with Alt Milk and AI Honey.” Even dairy giants like Danone are buying into this space; its VC arm Danone Manifesto Ventures recently took a minority investment in Forager Project, a plant-based creamery.
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