Michroma, Argentinian synbio firm is currently working on the production of fungi-based natural food colourings, a market dominated by synthetics and animal-derived products. The startup has developed a heat-stable vibrant red colour made from fungi through synthetic biology and fermentation technology.
The company’s co-founder and CEO Ricky Cassini said in an interview with Food Navigator that the firm leverages non-GMO filamentous fungi strains that can produce specific colours when fed with low-cost feedstocks in bioreactors. The fungi secretes the colours into the media where it grows, which is then filtered, dried and concentrated into a final product.
He added that the final product has a “high content of protein with all the essential amino acids and fiber that still retains a little bit of color, which makes it a very interesting byproduct for processed meat companies and plant-based meat companies.”
Michroma’s vibrant red colorant is vegan, kosher and halal, and can be used in beverages, candies, yogurts and baking mixes. It is also temperature-stable, and “can survive spray drying, extrusion, and pasteurization,” according to Cassini, making it a viable alternative for many companies in the food industry worldwide.
Michroma’s red colorant can become a substitute for currently-used red dyes made from carmine, a pigment derived from crushed beetles and cochineal insects. It also poses a big threat to other plant-based colorants: tomato-based lycopene isn’t as bright and beetroot is not heat-stable. Compared to beet-based red colors, Cassini states that Michroma’s colour intensity is around 58-times more, claiming that “The usage is really, really low.” This is also favorable for businesses that want to achieve sustainability goals while keeping their costs low.
Michroma is currently fueled by seed funding from the same investors behind Upside Foods, Perfect Day and NotCo. They plan to open a financing round in early 2022 for its expansion roadmap, and submit a colour additive petition to the FDA. After that, Michroma wants to sell its colourants through a B2B approach, partnering with food producers and ingredients suppliers.