Startup Chinova Bioworks recently partnered with the College Communautaire du Nouveau Brunswick (CCNB) in Canada to develop a processing aid for vegan-friendly beers. At this point, you’re likely asking yourself, “Is beer not already vegan?”
While vegans, by definition, steer clear of the obvious culprits like eggs, milk, butter, and honey that are easily identifiable on ingredient lists, some might not realize that animal-derived and/or synthetic ingredients are often used in the processing of beer and other alcoholic beverages. And the tricky thing is that these ingredients aren’t always listed on the label.
“Many brewed beers and other alcoholic beverages include animal-based compounds that are added through the production process,” explains Natasha Dhayagude, CEO and co-founder of Chinova Bioworks. “For example, many include pepsin, a foaming agent obtained from stomach enzymes of pigs; chitin, derived from lobster and crab shells; as well as carmine, which is found in the crushed scales of cochineal insects.”
Another commonly used compound is isinglass, a kind of gelatin obtained from fish swim bladders. These ingredients—termed “fining agents”—are often used in the alcohol production and filtering process to make drinks appear clearer and brighter.
Through the partnership, the researchers have discovered that Chinova’s proprietary fiber ingredient derived from the stems of white button mushrooms—called Chiber—can be used to replace isinglass fining agents and synthetic polyvinylpolypyrrolidone (PVPP).
“Through this collaboration, early results have already shown that Chinova’s mushroom fiber works eight times faster at settling yeast post-fermentation and can even leave residual antimicrobial benefits to the beer, making it stay fresher, longer,” says Dhayagude. In addition to being vegan and natural, the company claims that Chiber is cost effective, sustainable, odorless, tasteless, and doesn’t contain any allergenic materials from the mushroom.
While many leading brews, including Budweiser, Coors, Corona, and Heineken have shifted their processing to eliminate animal-derived ingredients, some still rely on synthetic processing aids. Additionally, the use of isinglass and other animal-derived finings is still high among cask brewers in the United Kingdom in order to cut down on the time needed for unfined casks to settle.
Chiber is already being used to extend the shelf-life in various food and beverage applications including dairy, beverages, plant-based meat and dairy, sauces, and spreads. With the goal to go to market with Chiber for alcoholic beverages in the first quarter of 2022, the company is “currently working with early adopters for market testing,” explains Dhayagude, “while actively seeking more innovative companies to take part in the initiative.” In the future, the company hopes to launch additional product lines and find more applications for Chiber in categories like baked goods.
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