Innovation through Mushrooms and Sport Drinks

Now, here is the thing with innovation, with every little thing you create using the earth’s resources, you generate waste, and you increase the entropy of the universe. Well, this cannot stop us from evolving nor creating, but what can be done is that we can be part of the creations that will be sustainable.

At a very young age, I fell in love with innovation.

The idea is to innovate products that will have the ability to transform into good energy rather than becoming a landfill. With that in mind, I have tried to be part of various projects that promoted green engineering and sustainable production.

In the last five years, I consider myself lucky to be part of many sustainable creations. However, among them, developing a healthy sports drink was on my favourites.

You must be wondering why sports drinks?

Well, over the years, sport and energy drinks have become the preferred choice of beverage for consumers at social and recreational activities. Sadly, these sugar pumped drinks are increasingly being misused by adolescents and infants (Story & Klein, 2012).

The majority of the populations misuse sports drinks for various purposes ranging from being thirst quenchers, soda substitutes, energy and performance boosters to even the way it tastes. (Rouan,2010).

PowerAde Play is advertised with the tagline “The sports drink for the young athlete”.

In doing so, the non-athletes are getting enticed into consuming a beverage, whose contents are not appropriate for public consumption. The reason behind this unhealthy practice might be partly the fault of sports drinks manufacturers who intentionally undertake promotional activities — enticing people with misguided information — to consume these drinks without understanding the possible consequences.

What is of more concerning is the fact that this promotional targets children and adolescents. Consumption of these drinks would be considered the same as drinking a sugar-sweetened solution in all the time–not just at times that involve high physical performance.

Even athletes are suggested to drink two bottles of water for every one Gatorade consumed, which indicates that even athletes should look for better natural alternatives to replenish their anabolic window (Aragon & Schoenfeld, 2013).

Therefore, it cannot be denied that this creates a need in the market for the development of sports drinks from natural sources enriched with nutrients.

While searching for the perfect source, I had it in mind that I had to find the superfood that was not only was packed with all the nutrients but was also in abundance.

This scientific quest has taken me to the plant of immortality, the mushroom.

Different ancient civilizations have consumed mushrooms with various spiritual beliefs. Some civilizations believed it as the plant of immortality; others believed it possessed the power to provide superhuman strength (“History and background,” 2016). There are over 2300 species of mushrooms which are used for food and medicinal purposes. Among them, Agaricus bisporus is  highly preferred.

As predicted by the global market, the demand for mushrooms will exceed USD 50 billion in the next seven years. Now, 1-2% of the total market includes canned/processed mushrooms which indicate that consumers prefer fresh mushrooms over processed mushrooms (Schirripa, 2016).

80% of those mushrooms are usually rejected due to overgrowth of the mushrooms.

The overgrown mushrooms are usually aesthetically unappealing and commercially unsellable.

Therefore, there is a considerable amount of mushroom waste. Although mushroom wastage is not considered a major problem as it doesn’t pollute the environment. However, such a huge amount of waste is an opportunity to produce a consumer good, as mushrooms are highly nutritious and beneficial for health.

Moreover, the high demand for mushrooms is not surprising as it provides a balanced nutrient of potassium, phosphorus, magnesium with low sodium, negligible cholesterol and fat content. Among many health-promoting qualities mushroom also exhibits its immunomodulation, anti-melanosis and ribosome-inactivating capabilities which is very promising (Encarnacion,2011)

I have dedicated my postgraduate days to developing a prototype healthy sports drink from mushroom waste.

In one hand, I had the current sports drinks in the market which are composed of high carbohydrates and sugar and are extremely unhealthy if consumed without vigorous physical activities. On the other hand, there is growing mushroom waste which can be utilized as the major constituent of the drink. Combining these two I had the possibility of making a drink which not only makes a balanced natural sports drink but of making a difference to the world.

It has the potential of reversing this whole generation from getting hinged to colourful sugar concentrated drinks.

With the hope to change and create, I have dedicated my postgraduate days to developing a prototype healthy sports drink from mushroom waste. Well honestly, I can’t deny the fact that the world of research is mostly dissatisfying. I feel we researchers encounter mostly failures and very little gratification during the process of creation (and I was no different). While developing the product, I encountered a constant fear of this product failing.

I pretty much instantly stumbled in every step of the way.

Having doubts…

I remember constantly telling myself to believe in the idea that it was truly possible to extract all the nutrients from the mushroom and make a delicious drink. Again, I also had to be mindful about the fact that just by making a drink, I was not incorporating any non-sustainable technique which would defeat the whole purpose of making this world a better place. With that in mind, let me tell you how I made this drink.

The first phase focused on investigating a processing method of the mushroom waste with the ambition of achieving high yield and maximum nutrition retention. This phase was very crucial as no matter how super the mushroom itself was, extracting all the nutrition without harming the potency of it, was the goal. After researching a ton of processing equipment, I landed on using high powered cyclonic homogenizer followed by centrifugation which extracted 99% protein content from the mushroom waste. That was a big win for me.

The second phase focused on investigating the operating condition that favoured the suppression of the browning of the mushroom using a combination of natural inhibitors together to make the drink appealing for the consumers.  Well this was something I expected.

Basically in simpler words, a mushroom is just like an apple. Mushrooms undergo browning as soon as they get exposed to air. But if you want people to drink, it has to look delicious. Now we all know, all healthy things don’t look yummy. To suppress the oxidation process, I studied the biochemical pathway of the oxidation process and in simpler words tried to block the pathway that made the drink look ugly. The majority part of my research focused on engineering the biochemical pathway and it was successful!

That is the basically the beauty of research, you fail and fail until you succeed.

It took me almost a year to successfully finish these two phases and with these I concluded my dissertation. I believe the hard part of the development is done. Now we just had to make the drink tasty.

I had to move to Toronto, so was unable to finalize the product. But I strongly believe that this product has the potential to teach the sports drink consumer to choose the healthier option in the future.

References

Mushroom Market Size, Share | Industry Trends Analysis Report, 2022. (n.d.). Retrieved 2019, from https://www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/mushroom-market

Author: Puja Banerjee – Puja is a recent FoodGrad with a demonstrated ability in undertaking product innovation across multiple fields. She has both a Bachelor of Biological Engineering (Food Engineering) and Biochemistry. On top of that a Masters in Chemical and Bio-Molecular Engineering. She is currently trying to find


Would YOU like to learn how to get involved and become a FoodGrads Campus Ambassador/Career Partner? What about sharing your voice when it comes to promoting the food industry? Great, we’d love to have you!

Interested in a career in Food & Beverage?  Join FoodGrads for FREE today! www.foodgrads.com 

Please leave your comments below 🙂