Natural Foods Merchandiser

Mushroom Variety Offers U.S. New Source Of Protein

After five years of deliberation, the Food and Drug Administration has approved Quorn, manufactured by Quorn Foods Inc. of Greenwich, Conn., for sale in the United States. On the market for 17 years in Europe, Quorn is a patented, non-genetically modified meat substitute made with mycoprotein—a vegetable protein derived from a variety of mushroom discovered near the company's original headquarters in North Yorkshire, England.

The product launch will focus initially on select natural products stores and retail food stores in the Northeast and the Pacific Northwest. Seven frozen products will make their debut on store shelves: chicken-style patties; chicken-style cutlets; chicken-style tenders; ground beef style; and two entrees, lasagna and fettuccine alfredo. The tenders and ground beef style are designed to be added to recipes as meat-free alternatives.

"We feel there is tremendous potential to grow the meat-free category in the U.S.," said Chris Samuel, vice president of marketing for Quorn Foods, a subsidiary of Marlow Foods Ltd., of Marlow, England.

The extended approval process was required because Quorn is "a new food, not just a new product," according to Samuel. The fusarium species of fungi—the source of Quorn's mycoprotein—was studied extensivly, and deemed fit for human consumption. The first Quorn product was introduced in the U.K. in 1985 and rolled out across Europe in 1993. Today, Quorn Foods racks up $150 million in sales in six European countries and offers more than 90 products.

When harvested, the mycoprotein used in Quorn looks similar to bread dough; it is then fermented much like yogurt. Its nutritional profile, according to the company, will please health-conscious shoppers: cholesterol-free, low in fat and a good source of fiber and protein; it also contains nine amino acids.

The taste? Quorn has been compared in flavor and texture to chicken—subtle in taste, light and chewy in bite. In blind taste tests, said Samuel, "Quorn scores incredibly high." Accordingly, the company plans to offer extensive in-store demos to get Quorn samples into the mouths of consumers.

The products soon to be available in the United States have been adapted to suit national taste preferences. Additional Quorn foods, tweaked to please American palates—cold cuts, breakfast sausages and other prepared entrees—will be introduced later this year, said Samuel


Barbara Hey is senior editor of Delicious Living.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIII/number 2/p. 7

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