It’s easy to get swept up in the news of the industry’s global titans, but what about the smaller firms that are out there flexing their creative muscles? In this instalment of ‘Start-up of the month’ – which celebrates the lesser-known companies and their innovations – we speak to Chinova Bioworks, which has embarked on a mission to revolutionise food preservation and combat waste. CEO and co-founder Natasha Dhayagude discusses its proprietary natural fibre extracted from white button mushrooms, as well as its benefits and role in reducing food waste.
Dave Brown and Natasha Dhayagude, co-founders of Chinova Bioworks
Since its establishment in 2016, what has been Chinova Biowork’s main mission?
Chinova Bioworks started in 2016 with a simple goal: to deliver clean-label ingredients and reduce food waste. While it seems simple, consumers and brands were faced with only one choice – artificial, hard-to-pronounce preservatives. Chinova was founded to help fill this gap. Looking to nature, we found a natural and sustainable alternative in a fibre extracted from white button mushrooms.
Our mission: Using nature to protect and reduce food waste.
Our vision: Create value throughout the food supply chain from farm to fork.
Could you tell us more about the reasons behind Chinova’s inception?
I met my co-founder, Dave Brown, at an entrepreneurship accelerator and incubator centre in New Brunswick, Canada. We both wanted to make an environmental and social impact on the world by leveraging our scientific backgrounds – mine in biochemistry and Dave’s in microbiology and biotechnology. We also found a shared interest in the study of white button mushrooms and their inherent health benefits on the food system.
At the time, there wasn’t much innovation happening to combat the challenges within the food industry, such as food waste and the use of artificial ingredients.
If global food waste were a country, it would be the third largest GHG-emitting country in the world. One-third of food produced globally is lost or wasted – this amounts to 1.3 billion tonnes of food wasted every year. We found that 50 billion is wasted in Canada alone. This loss shows that there is no lack or shortage of food, but that the culprit is spoilage.
Looking to nature, we came across a natural and sustainable alternative to artificial ingredients with a fibre extracted from white button mushrooms, which we branded as Chiber. As a natural shelf-life extender, Chiber improves the quality and freshness of foods by protecting them from spoilage-causing microorganisms in a sustainable way, resulting in increased consumer satisfaction with a clean-label ingredient and reduced food waste.
How is Chiber revolutionising the food and beverage industry?
Chiber is an all-natural fibre upcycled from white button mushroom stems. With its natural preservation properties, Chiber enhances various products’ quality, freshness and shelf-life. It also provides broad-spectrum protection against commonly caused spoilage microorganisms such as yeast, mould and harmful bacteria, providing a natural and healthy alternative to synthetic additives.
Being allergen-free and with no sensory impact, Chiber extends the shelf-life of products without affecting their taste, texture or appearance. Chiber is on the Whole Foods Market acceptable ingredient list, vegan, kosher, halal certified, and organic and Non-GMO compliant. It is allergen and gluten-free and has no sensory impact on food and beverage products.
Chiber is ideal for six different product categories: beverage, dairy, plant-based dairy, sauces/spreads/dips, plant-based meat and baked goods. Currently, Chiber is approved for use in the US, Canada, Mexico and about 70 other countries around the world through FDA, Health Canada and FEMA GRAS regulatory approvals.
The process used to create Chiber is similar to other natural plant extracts. The process involves drying the mushrooms, grinding them and utilising heat and water to extract the fibre from the stems. The minimal and eco-friendly processing of Chiber delivers a natural mushroom fibre that enhances the quality, freshness, and shelf-life of various food and beverage products.
Chinova wants to make an environmental and social impact in the world. Both Dave and I are passionate about mushrooms and the inherent health benefits they have on the food system. For instance, we upcycle the stems of white button mushrooms, which are normally thrown out when harvesting but are now used to create Chiber, our mushroom extract for food preservation.
The more we studied mushrooms, the more tests and research we were able to perform to bring out the traits to make Chiber a viable natural preservation ingredient. It’s the mushroom that led us down the path we are on today, and it is where we still see the potential for growth. With new product development, we want to continue the upcycling of supply to produce natural and sustainable products that impact various markets.
For Chiber, marketers can use the sustainability qualities associated with white button mushrooms to attract consumers, along with the natural and clean-label attributes. As a natural food source, mushrooms require little water to cultivate, have a short life cycle, and are grown throughout the year, which leads to a sustainable supply source.
What are the main uses/benefits of Chiber, and what makes it unique compared to other fibre ingredients?
Chiber represents a breakthrough in natural shelf-life extension and provides a sustainable solution to preserve the natural goodness of food and beverage products.
With Chiber, we are at the forefront of mushroom ingredient innovation by realising the potential of a fibre extracted from the most widely known and accepted white button mushroom and the impact it can have to improve the freshness, quality and shelf-life of food and beverage products. White button mushrooms are commonly consumed, healthy and are widely abundant as a feedstock for our fibre extraction. We are going back to the basics and using nature to protect food.
How is Chinova reducing food waste with Chiber?
Chinova Bioworks aims to minimise wastefulness across all stages of the food supply chain. The company achieves this by collaborating with mushroom farmers to utilise the typically discarded stems of white button mushrooms and upcycles them into valuable ingredients such as its flagship ingredient Chiber, a clean-label mushroom extract and shelf-life extender for foods and beverages.
Manufacturers using Chiber improve their finished products’ quality, freshness and shelf-life. Distributors with longer-lasting finished products can now reach more remote areas and increase food security. Retailers decrease spoilage costs with products containing Chiber, enabling brands to provide consumers with natural, healthy, clean-label products that reduce food waste.
The company developed a proprietary green-chemistry process for the extraction of their mushroom solutions which is a significant improvement over other chemical manufacturing processes.
Each kilogram of Chiber sold will reduce emissions equivalent to charging 5,474 cell phones or driving 182 kilometres in your car.
What is next for Chinova? Any exciting plans in the pipeline?
The company is currently growing its team to help us expand into more markets and countries as we continue to invest in research. We are also working on developing exciting new natural ingredients that we hope to launch in the next couple of years.
In June, we launched MycoKleer, a new vegan fining agent for beverage manufacturers looking to clarify their drinks. We will continue to develop new products, such as MycoKleer, that will help us expand into a variety of markets.
Anything else you would like our readers to know?
Recently, Chinova became a finalist in the Food Waste Reduction Challenge, which has solidified the company as a disruptor in the food industry with its clean-label and sustainable solution for reducing food waste, an issue at the forefront of the minds of consumers.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2023