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Unlocking the power of mushrooms through waste stream reuse

Published: 21-03-2016, | Member: Lutèce Food Ingredients

Waste streams from the industrial processing of white button mushrooms are converted into a versatile flavor enhancer and a meat substitute, thanks to Lutèce Food Ingredients, an innovative mushroom processor with two plants in the Netherlands. “We repurpose our waste streams on-site,” says Lianne van Iersel, the company’s Business manager, “which makes the whole process even more sustainable.”

Lutèce is one of the largest preserved mushroom manufacturers in the world. The company was founded more than hundred years ago and started processing mushrooms in 1955. Now it preserves 75 million kilos of mushrooms annually, packaging them in cans, jars and pouches. It has customers in 66 countries. Earlyer this year it was announced that Greenyard Foods intends to buy Lutèce from C4C Holding. This takeover is expected to be effectuated before May 2016.

“We have great expectations of the synergy with Greenyard Foods’ subsidiary Noliko, which is specialized in canned vegetables and fruit,” says Van Iersel. “We have a lot to offer each other, both in terms of expertise and sales channels. C4C is a fresh mushroom growers’ cooperative, which didn’t really fit with our activities.”

Flavor enhancers from blanching water
Innovation is a priority at Lutèce’s two modern production facilities in the Netherlands, situated in Velden and Horst. So it’s logical that the company started looking for ways to use waste streams. “Mushrooms contain so many valuable components,” says Van Iersel. “We wanted to get the most out of them. A few years ago, we drew up a roadmap to making optimum use of mushrooms’ functional substances. We are now on that road and will keep developing more sophisticated solutions over the next few years.”

The first waste stream Lutèce focused on was the water it uses to blanch mushrooms prior to canning. This blanching water contains many components that can be used as a flavor enhancer. “The blanching water contains about 1% valuable components,” says Van Iersel. “We turn this into a concentrate by reducing the water content and increasing the dry matter content to 60%. This process takes place at our canning facilities, so we don’t spend any time or energy on transporting water. The water doesn’t contain that typical mushroom flavor; that disappears during blanching because it’s so volatile. This means that our concentrate, called Finèce, can be used in a whole range of products as a flavor enhancer but it also helps in reducing salt. And it’s available not only as a liquid concentrate, but also as a powder.”

Juicy meat substitute
Another product Lutèce is working on is a meat substitute. “During processing, there’s always a certain percentage of mushrooms that don’t meet our quality standards,” says Van Iersel. “We want to turn this waste stream into a meat substitute or supplement to meet the needs of the growing number of vegetarians and flexitarians. Mushrooms are tasty, but also have a meat-like structure and a capacity for retaining moisture. That makes them an excellent source for a juicy meat replacement that’s particularly suitable for mixing with ground beef, for instance. Also, mushrooms are very healthy. They contain little cholesterol and no fat. Mixing 20-50% of our new product in with your ground beef makes that meat loaf a lot healthier.”

Van Iersel expects Lutèce Food Ingredients to market more innovative mushroom products in the near future. “There’s so much potential. Sodium reduction is just one example. Mushrooms contain substances that can compensate for reduced sodium content in all sorts of food products. I’m sure we and our partners are going to develop many more solutions in the years ahead.”

Lutece Food Ingredients