As a planet, we’re experiencing something of a protein frenzy right now. Whether it’s made of meat or plants, we just can’t get enough of the stuff.
An Argentinian company called Enye Technologies is trying to help feed this protein craze with microfungus, the main ingredient in plant-based meat company Quorn. They have developed a way to grow mycelia, or delicate fungus filaments, to make edible protein chunks which the company calls “Kernels.” The kernels apparently have a texture similar to tuna and a neutral flavor.
According to FoodNavigator, EnyeTech will have a two-sided go-to-market approach for its Kernels. It will license out its protein-growing technology to food companies looking for cheap protein. More interestingly, it will also build a kitchen appliance which will allow customers to grow 300g of microfungus protein per day using a process not unlike making a Nespresso drink.
Yes, a Nespresso for protein.
The aforementioned Food Navigator article noted that the company plans to launch their Kernel technology at CES in January 2020, though they didn’t specify if that’s when they’ll launch the protein tech alone or the full-fledged consumer appliance. They haven’t disclosed pricing details for the appliance or the protein pods, but Enye Tech is expecting to sell Kernel to foodservice partners for $2 per kilo.
As of now, there are too many question marks to know if this device could actually be viable. Is the appliance affordable? How do consumers order more protein pods? Is the protein-making process really as easy as just popping in a pod? Does the Kernel protein actually taste good?
But the biggest question of all is whether making your own protein at home is actually worth it. In an age where more and more appliances are vying for our countertop, I’m not sure that many consumers will make room for a machine that only makes protein chunks. And when there are so many appealing plant-based options you can easily buy at the grocery store, does anyone actually want to go through the added trouble of growing their own? However, we are headed towards an era of cooking convergence; maybe Enye Tech would fare better if they incorporated their technology into another countertop appliance?
Right now, this technology seems like it would have a pretty niche audience: namely, people who love doing things like brewing their own beer and are also pretty environmentally conscious. I have a hard time envisioning a future where everyone casually grows their own protein for dinner. When we head into space, it might be a different story.