Valio and eniferBio are joining forces to create a new, future-proof product for the plant-based protein field. Originally invented in the 1970s, PEKILO® has been further developed by eniferBio and is now ready to scale.

10 May 2022, Espoo, Finland

Valio, the leading Finnish innovator in food and dairy, and eniferBio, the Finnish biotech start-up producing the mycoprotein PEKILO® announced the signing of an R&D co-operation agreement. The aim of the two companies is to combine forces and bring a new sustainable, locally sourced protein to the dinner table.

eniferBio’s mycoprotein product PEKILO® has so far been targeted as an environmentally friendly alternative to soy in fish farming. However, just like conventional protein sources such as animal proteins, soya or pea protein, PEKILO® is also well suited to human nutrition. Now, the aim of Valio and eniferBio is to study the upcycling of food industry by-products into a protein ingredient for new food products. Initial testing by the partners suggests that Valio’s dairy by-products are one of possible raw materials for PEKILO® protein production. The mycoprotein will be an interesting part of new food products, thanks to its high protein content and neutral flavour.

“New, plant-based sources of protein are gaining interest amongst consumers and demand is growing worldwide. In addition to traditional food production, we need new and sustainable ways of producing food. eniferBio, a cutting-edge research company, has developed new ways of utilising the food industry’s side streams in the production of protein. That is why we think eniferBio is an excellent partner for us in the development of new means for food production,” says Senior Vice President, R&D, Harri Kallioinen from Valio.

The work by the parties will include optimizing PEKILO® production on Valio’s raw material streams, studying the properties of PEKILO® protein in food application, and testing end products containing the new ingredient. The commercial launch for PEKILO® protein in food is currently envisioned for 2025, once first products have been designed, production volumes can be ramped up and all relevant regulatory approvals obtained.

eniferBio CEO Simo Ellilä, remarks, “Bringing PEKILO® protein directly to the dinner table was a key objective of the original developers of PEKILO®, and it is a privilege to be able to complete the pioneering work first begun in Finland. To succeed, I cannot imagine a better partner for us than Valio, considering their incredible track record in food R&D. The fact that we can use Valio’s own raw materials as feedstocks is like an icing on the cake, completing a fully circular solution for the future of food. There is a huge demand for new, sustainable sources of protein. The history of PEKILO® means that it is ready to scale, making this is a globally unique opportunity.”

The proven technology of PEKILO® transforms industry by-products into a source of protein

The PEKILO® process and mycoprotein product are a unique piece of Finnish history, originally commercialized in the 1970s. The process used fungi fermentation to valorise forestry side streams into a novel source of protein, which was mainly used in the domestic pig and poultry feed between 1975 and 1991. It was the world’s first mycoprotein product and had many unique design features. Production originally ceased in 1991 due to large changes in the forestry sector. Since 2020, the team at eniferBio has been reviving and further developing the technology.

While commercially employed in feed, the use of PEKILO® in food was already studied back in the day. For instance, application testing in sausages, meatballs and baking was carried out as early as in the late 1970s. Human nutritional studies were carried out at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the early 1980s, in parallel with another fungus, Fusarium venenatum, which would later go on to be commercialized as Quorn™. The MIT study found both fungi to be very good sources of protein for humans. Approval for food use of PEKILO® was sought with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the late 1980s, but the application process was finally abandoned with the decline of PEKILO® production in Finland in 1991.

About eniferBio

eniferBio Ltd, a spin-off company from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, was founded by five scientists in 2020 to further develop and commercialize the proprietary PEKILO® technology. A process originally developed and used by the Finnish forest industry at commercial scale, the PEKILO® technology enables biotechnological conversion of dilute side streams into a high-protein ingredient, PEKILO® mycoprotein.

About Valio

Valio, offering the taste of Nordic nature since 1905, is a brand leader and the biggest dairy business in Finland and a major player in the international dairy ingredients market. The company is owned by dairy cooperatives comprising some 4,000 dairy farmers. 

Wellbeing is at the heart of Valio’s world leading technology innovations, expertise and products that are made from clean Finnish milk and other ingredients. Our product development follows in the footsteps of Nobel Prize winner A. I. Virtanen, and the company holds 350 patents in 50 countries. Our efforts to improve animal welfare are resolute, and we know that only healthy cows can produce premium milk products. Valio’s milk ranks among the cleanest in the world, and we have zero tolerance for antibiotic residue in milk. 

Valio has net sales of EUR 1.9 billion and is Finland’s biggest food exporter. Valio products are found in some 60 countries and account for 25 % of Finland’s total food exports. Valio seeks strong growth in international markets and has subsidiaries in Sweden, the Baltics, USA and China.

 For more information:

Simo Ellilä, simo.ellila@eniferbio.fi

Valio Mediadesk, mediadesk@valio.fi