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Turn challenges into advantages

The Mushroom Benefit access mushrooms and their multiple benefits in a variety of products

Please introduce yourself and your startup The Mushroom Benefit to our readers!

I am Mira Weigensberg, CEO of The Mushroom Benefit Ltd. My life partner, Oren Kessler, is Vice President of R&D. We have been in the exotic mushroom world for over 30 years. Actually, my academic training was in Immunology where I learned about the potential health benefits of mushrooms, particularly exotic mushrooms, as immune system boosters and for promoting cardiovascular health as part of a balanced diet. That initial recognition, together with our love of mushrooms as food, kicked off our life’s work.

How did you get the idea to The Mushroom Benefit?

We cultivated and marketed mushrooms extensively in our domestic market for many years. Despite many perceived and acknowledged health and culinary benefits of mushrooms, the fungi market is a niche segment in the overall food industry. Our goal is to provide new and innovative products which would leverage the goodness of exotic mushrooms and bring it to mainstream consumers, enabling them to easily incorporate it into their everyday lives. The idea was to replace MSG with real umami taste and flavor of exotic mushrooms and make them more accessible to consumers with busy lifestyle.

This is what kicked off development of our new product lines. Throughout the research and development process, we encountered a variety of hurdles and challenges, resulting in successful (and less successful) attempts to reach the specific products’ characteristics that we were targeting. 

Preparing a sophisticated and healthy meal requires effort, knowledge, and time spent pre-planning, cutting, soaking, filtering, spicing, and preparing a stock. That’s too time consuming for many who live overly demanding lives. Our cuisine bags contain a unique blend of exotic mushrooms such as shiitake and black truffle as well as natural seasoning and flavors, and a single sachet can prepare a liquid stock in 10 to 15 minutes, or it may be inserted directly into a pot or saucepan containing the raw ingredients. . This basically offers a quick and easy method to flavor any dish and bring the mushrooms’ essence to the dining table with minimal effort and maximum indulgence.

How difficult was the start and what challenges you had to overcome?

After studying the market we recognized a general need for innovative and natural products in the food sector. We mapped the market and consumer trends and then we looked at our capabilities as a principally mushroom company. We consulted with experts in diverse fields and chefs with decades of culinary experience and realized the potential of mushrooms given their variety of health and taste benefits as a basis for our new products and decided to create products centered on mushroom goodness. It was important for us to keep the goodness of the mushroom and use only real, simple ingredients.

Replacing synthetic ingredients with natural ones was a major challenge. Likewise, the careful exploitation of natural resource was a major constraint from the beginning, as we wished to align our products with the global demand for sustainable production, and it was important to achieve a minimal packaging footprint .The bags themselves are made of 100% natural and wholly biodegradable corn fiber.

It was essential for us that our products fit perfectly with the emerging market trends for healthier products containing simple ingredients. Our products do not incorporate artificial ingredients, E-numbers and other obscure additives, and our labels are transparent and clear. 

Who is your target audience? 

Our target audience is anyone who loves good tasting food and cares that their food is natural and healthful. I expect that our first product line, the Cuisine Bag, will be particularly attractive for two groups of people:  busy people who want quick and easy great tasting home cooking that contains no artificial ingredients, and consumers who like to cook but want that extra something that will give their meals that “great restaurant experience” . Our second product line is still a secret, but details will be released ahead of the Fancy Food Show at the end of June in NYC.  

What is the USP of your startup?   

Our strength is where we come from -the world of mushrooms. We understand and respect mushrooms at a very high level, and we appreciate both the health benefits of mushrooms, and the umami factor for enhancing savory flavors as a substitute for salt and artificial flavour additives. By virtue of a deep understanding of the raw natural product, we know how to design a product that reflects the best qualities of the diverse exotic mushroom universe and also provides the consumer with added value, both nutrition-wise and cost-wise. 

Our new products rely on a combination of knowledge of advanced food-tech technologies and our long-term familiarity and extensive knowledge of mushrooms. All of the above enabled us to create products that add value to the consumer without detracting from the taste and benefits of consuming natural food.

One myth that we hope to shatter is the perception that mushrooms are elitist and expensive. Our products are designed to appeal to the everyday shopper that desires products at reasonable prices that add to his or her culinary experience and add tasty dimensions to everyday dishes as well as consumers of natural products as a way of life, with transparent package labels and identifiable ingredients. 

Can you describe a typical workday of you? 

Since we decided to embark on developing The Mushroom Benefit’s new products, there’s nothing typical about our work days. Each day is a new challenge that starts at dawn and ends late at night. The only thing that one day has in common with the next is that we keep learning and improving our product lines.

Where do you see yourself and your startup The Mushroom Benefit in five years? 

As a leader in mushroom innovation that enables the consumer to access mushrooms and their multiple benefits in a variety of products in easy and enjoyable formats.

What 3 tips would you give other Start-up founders on the way?

Use the existing knowledge base of your staff and leverage it to improve your products. 

Do not succumb to challenges and hurdles – there are many on the way but turn challenges into advantages because these are the obstacles that others gave up on, and the advantage in overcoming them is a powerful multiplier of opportunity.

Recruit a first class team that is capable of facing every challenge at every intersection and finding the optimal way forward.  

More information you will find here

Thank you Mira Weigensberg for the Interview

Statements of the author and the interviewee do not necessarily represent the editors and the publisher opinion again.

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