In the world of food tech, decisions made on viable data are good, and a lot of data is even better. But with Shiru, a functional ingredient discovery company, with a dataset of more than 450 million known proteins, you are in rarified air and a welcome partner to forward-thinking companies.
With that in mind, Shiru has announced a new partnership with Puratos, a Belgium-based company that supplies food ingredients for bakeries. Shiru’s Flourish platform will evaluate naturally occurring proteins that could serve as a next-generation egg replacement.
“At Puratos, we truly believe that collaborations can fuel innovation within the food ecosystem,” stated Paul Baisier, Chief R&D Officer at Puratos. “As a company rooted in biology and science, Shiru is the perfect partner in the Puratos’s journey to finding novel uses for proteins discovered by Shiru’s Flourish platform as functional food ingredients that are sustainable, healthy, and delicious. Together with Shiru, we will be able to accelerate our plant-based product innovation pipeline for the benefit of our customers and consumers.”
Julian Lewis, Shiru’s Vice President of Business Development, told The Spoon why his company is excited about this partnership. “(Puratos) will help us scale up these (egg replacement) proteins using their fermentation facilities to a large kind of food grade sample, where we can then do more extensive food application testing. And through this partnership, we have a clear path to fully scaling these ingredients and bringing them to market.”
At this stage of its life cycle, Alameda, Calif.-based Shiru lives for such a partnership. Its database Flourish Flourish uses AI and machine learning to analyze its database of nearly 450 million proteins found in nature. Each application—for example, a plant-based meat company that wants to add taste to its burgers—identifies ingredients that will solve that specific functional ingredient challenge. This business model, Lewis explains, might expand to his company by commercializing some of its discoveries.
“There’ll be other food categories where we might collaborate, or we might do it ourselves,” Lewis said of opportunities down the road. “We might end up in a hybrid where we’re doing some stuff ourselves and collaborating with experts in other fields just to accelerate its market path.”
Functionality is Shiru’s secret sauce, which is the ability to target a specific property of a particular food product. Lewis explains:
“There are three categories we can play in. There’s replace in which we substitute an ingredient for one that, for example, doesn’t work properly. A second is taste. And what we mean by that is some plant-based foods are not that good, and I have yet to find a vegan cheese that works. Lastly, it is to transform. What new foods could be generated in the future that is not replacing traditional products, which are just new things? And maybe we can do that by discovering new functional protein.”
One of the side benefits of working with a complex database is the ability to help food manufacturers get away from using relatively unhealthy ingredients in some plant-based products that give the impression of being a clean alternative. “We’re aiming to provide a much better toolkit of ingredients to the food developers trying to create plant-based foods,” Lewis said.
Lewis adds that while Shiru is currently generally focused on the plant-based world, there’s no reason it will not be a player as the cultured food business develops. “All food has, I would say, taste and texture challenges, so with cultured meats, some additional ingredients may be required. And we’re already working on the early stage with players in that space as well. Our goal is to create more sustainable food ingredients that are both required and interesting.”