FINLAND – Finnish manufacturer of dairy products Valio has joined forces with eniferBio, a Finnish biotech start-up producing the mycoprotein Pekilo by signing an R&D cooperation agreement to develop Pekilo mycoprotein.

eniferBio’s mycoprotein product PEKILO is regarded as an environmentally friendly alternative to soy in fish farming and also suitable for human nutrition just like other conventional protein sources.

The aim of the partnership is to study the upcycling of food industry by-products into a protein ingredient for new food products.

They are considering using Valio’s dairy by-products as one of the possible raw materials in the production of Pekilo protein after initial tests gave a positive response.

The start-up says the mycoprotein will be an interesting part of new food products, thanks to its high protein content and neutral flavor.

The parties plan to work on optimizing Pekilo production on Valio’s raw material streams, studying the properties of Pekilo protein in food applications, and testing end products containing the new ingredient.

Furthermore, the partners intend to start commercializing Pekilo protein in food in 2025 after obtaining relevant regulatory approvals.

Senior Vice President, R&D, Harri Kallioinen from Valio said, “New, plant-based sources of protein are gaining interest amongst consumers and demand is growing worldwide.

“eniferBio, a cutting-edge research company, has developed new ways of utilizing the food industry’s side streams in the production of protein. That is why we think eniferBio is an excellent partner for us in the development of new means for food production.”

The Pekilo process and mycoprotein products were originally commercialized in the 1970s and the process used fungi fermentation to valorize forestry side streams into a novel source of protein.

Human nutritional studies were carried out at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the early 1980s, in parallel with another fungus, Fusarium venenatum, which later was used to produce protein commercialize as Quorn.

Approval for food use of Pekilo was sought from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the late 1980s, but the application process was finally abandoned with the decline of Pekilo production in Finland in 1991.

Since 2020, the team at eniferBio has been reviving and further developing the technology for conversion of dilute side streams into a high-protein ingredient, Pekilo mycoprotein.

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