Nature’s Fynd protein gets green light from FDA


Dive Brief:

  • Nature’s Fynd received a no questions letter from the Food and Drug Administration in response to its application for its alternative protein ingredient to receive generally recognized as safe status. This means the federal agency has given tacit approval for the Fy protein to be sold in food products. The letter was first reported by Food Navigator
  • Fy is fermented from a fungus found in 2016 on an expedition to remote areas of Yellowstone National Park. In its GRAS application, Nature’s Fynd indicates it may use Fy in meat and dairy analogs, fruit and vegetable juices, prepared meals and soups, dried pasta and noodles, baked foods and mixes, and oils and dressings.
  • Nature’s Fynd released its first products from its signature protein — meat-free sausage patties and dairy-free cream cheese spread — in a limited quantity on its website in January. They sold out in a matter of hours. The company plans to have products available to a wider market later this year, a spokesperson said this weekend.

Dive Insight:

What started out as a scientific expedition to investigate life that can survive in harsh conditions is now closer than ever to becoming center-of-plate fare for consumers.

Nature’s Fynd, formerly known as Sustainable Bioproducts, was born out of an expedition to see what kind of life could survive in harsh circumstances. Fy, which was found in an acidic spring with a pH similar to that of a car battery, was recognized as having the nutritional content, structure and efficiency to be a good food source.

In the five years since becoming a company, Nature’s Fynd has raised $158 million — with $125 million of that in 2020 alone — built and started production in a 35,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Chicago, and hired several CPG veterans from Archer Daniels Midland, Bel Brands USA, Kind Snacks and Cargill to help it break into the market and develop products that consumers want. Nature’s Fynd’s financial backers include the venture capital arms of ADM and Danone, as well as sustainability-focused investment groups backed by Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Jack Ma and Al Gore.

By receiving the FDA’s no questions letter, the push to bring Fy to consumers enters a new stage. While food tech innovations can be exciting, they can’t get to consumers without FDA approval. And recent trends show consumers are clamoring for new products to replace traditionally animal-based proteins. After all, plant-based foods posted 27% sales growth in 2020, according to SPINS statistics publicized by the Plant Based Foods Association and Good Food Institute.

Fy is not a plant-based protein. It is fermented from a fungus through a completely separate process. But fermented proteins, once only found in the products from meat analog pioneer Quorn, are on the cusp of adding another type of animal food analog to grocery store shelves and restaurant menus. According to a report last September from the Good Food Institute, a third of all of the money invested in alternative proteins in the first nine months of 2020 went to fermentation companies.

Fermentation, which the group called the “next pillar” of alternative proteins, is becoming a much more visible way to make and buy animal protein analogs. Quorn has been on U.S. grocery shelves since 2002 — but its chicken alternatives are about to receive a new push in the market following parent company Monde Nissin’s IPO. Other newcomers to the space are on some shelves, including koji-powered Prime Roots. The Better Meat Co. recently unveiled its 13,000-square-foot fermentation facility, and products with its new Rhiza protein are expected later this year. And with recent big funding rounds, companies including mycoprotein bacon-producer Atlast Food are likely to get in front of consumers soon.

With the green light to make products for consumers, Nature’s Fynd could have the distinct advantage of being one of the first of the new fermentation companies to make it to plates and pantries. And though it’s talked about the most as an animal protein analog, it also has the potential to enrich hundreds of other products, building on the nutritional value of everything from juice to bread. The products Fy goes into could do a lot to shape consumers’ viewpoint of what fermented food can do — in terms of taste, nutrition and sustainability.

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