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London Tech Week

Michroma scoops $6.4M to bring fungi-based natural food colouring to market

Photo Credit: Michroma

In the $2.6 billion food colourants sector, natural ingredients are becoming more prevalent. According to a poll, 92% of people are concerned about artificial colours, and prominent food producers (BurgerKing, Nestle, Kraft, Mars, General Mills, and others) are shifting away from artificial colours to meet the demand for natural ingredient alternatives from health-conscious consumers.

Michroma, a precision fermentation food component firm, has raised a $6.4M seed financing round. The funding will help Michroma accelerate the commercialisation of sustainable natural colourants, enhance research and development capabilities, and widen its ingredient portfolio. Petroleum, the base ingredient in most conventional colourants, is removed from the food ingredient value chain.

The round was led by Supply Change Capital, a food tech VC backed by 301 INC, the corporate venture capital arm of General Mills. New investors include Be8 Ventures, which is backed by Dr. Oetker, a global food company based in over 40 countries; and CJ CheilJedang, a $23B Korean conglomerate. 

New investors in Michroma include FEN Ventures, Boro Capital, The Mills Fabrica, Portfolia’s Food & Ag Tech Fund, New Luna Ventures, Siddhi Capital, Groundswell Ventures, and HackCapital; and Angels investors Allen Miner, Jun Ueki and Steve Zurcher from the Keiretsu Japan Forum, Guillermo Rosental, Franco Goytia, Pablo Pla and Mat Travizano. Existing investors participating in the round are SOSV’s IndieBio and GRIDX.

“We are poised to meet consumer demand for healthier and more sustainable food without petroleum-based ingredients,” said Michroma’s CEO and Co-founder, Ricky Cassini. “Unlike the current generation of unstable natural options, like betalains, carminic acid, and anthocyanins, Michroma is producing better-performing natural colorants powered by fungi. This next stage of our development will help us industrialize our fungal platform and enable the world’s transition to natural colors.”

“We see compelling market and consumer potential for Michroma’s fungal platform to create next-generation natural ingredients, from colorants to flavors, that are healthier and more sustainable while maximizing production efficiency.  We are excited by the speed and skill with which they are building out their capabilities. Even more so, in light of the current disruption of supply chains globally, we believe Michroma is laying the foundation for the sustainable ingredients of the future.” said Noramay Cadena, Supply Change Capital’s Managing Director and Michroma Board Member. 

Michroma’s new technique focuses on developing fungal biofactories to more efficiently generate tiny compounds such as colours.

The San Francisco-based tech startup was founded in 2019 by Mauricio Braia and Ricky Cassini, is a foodtech firm that is changing the way foods are made by creating fungal-based biofactories that generate natural ingredients in a sustainable, scalable, and cost-effective manner. It began by producing a revolutionary red colourant called Red+, which is temperature-resistant and stable across the whole food pH spectrum. These properties enable colours to withstand operations such as pasteurisation, cooking, and extrusion, which are among the most intensive for natural dyes. The company’s product pipeline begins with warm colours, which account for 90% of the food market, and progresses to include other colours and unique flavours that will be sold in combination, allowing enterprises to offer integrated solutions.

 “We are leveraging the power and versatility of filamentous fungi with our synbio platform. By combining a unique fungal chassis strain with precision fermentation, we are capable of producing high-value complex molecules with high yields previously unseen in the biotech industry,” said Michroma’s CSO and Co-Founder, Dr. Mauricio Braia.

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