Alternative meat and dairy have been both a hot market and hot topic for the past few years. Brands like Beyond Meat and Perfect Day have been at the forefront of replacing animal products – from lab-grown beef, to cream cheese developed from molecules – with a more sustainable, and occasionally nutritionally questionable option. While Beyond hamburgers can be found at several U.S. restaurants, most of the developments have been targeting everyday consumers and their home cooking habits as their end game. Not so Mamu, a new meat alternative with a twist.
2023 is going to be a big year for Mamu, a mushroom-based ingredient made from shiitake, king oyster and white button mushrooms, chickpeas, canola oil and water. It launched somewhat quietly in November this year, betting big on fungi and utilising its core structure, the mycelium. Behind it is Sempera Organics, an ingredient company that’s part of the San Francisco food tech accelerator Mista. If, by now, Mamu’s background sounds classically tech-centric – it has, after all, emerged from the land of Impossible Burger, Beyond Meat and Perfect Day – its interesting claim to fame is the backing of a Michelin-star chef: Srijith (Sri) Gopinathan – formerly of the two Michelin-star restaurant Campton Place in San Francisco – is the product’s chief culinary officer, the fine-dining encyclopaedia to Sempera founder Nirmal Nair’s science prowess.
Photo credit: Kelly Puleio
The two met over two years ago, while Gopinathan was at Compton Place, where Nair, whose background is in tech product management, was a loyal customer. At that point in time, Gopinathan was already interested in the field. “I’m not vegan, but I always knew there’s gonna be an end very soon to the ridiculous consumption of meat,” he says. “I’ve been watching the movement in the last 5-8 years and I was trying to figure out how I can get involved.” Nair and Gopinathan discussed creating a product together, focused on mushrooms. Two years later, and Mamu (the name a playful take on umami), is vying for a spot at the heart of the meat-replacement industry.