In this era, where people are becoming environmentally conscious, eco-friendly and sustainable materials are in high demand.
Since its invention in the 1940s, polystyrene foam has dutifully served the world. With countless advancements in packaging essentials, from cushioning for packages to floatation devices that help save lives, polystyrene foam has absolutely been an incredible material.
However, its impact on the environment is concerning, as polystyrene foam can take thousands of years to biodegrade. This material worked as a miracle but is also flawed because of its degrading impact on human well-being.
Eventually, to cope with this hazardous activity that can impact the environment, mycelium made its way to the market. Mycelium is used primarily as a packaging material that replaces styrofoam packaging; mycelium is capable of hosting numerous other products that would act as a sustainable replacement for environment-degrading materials. Although mycelium is not the first choice of many packaging companies, sustainable packaging adoption-related changes are expected to be made soon.
What is mycelium?
Mycelium is a vegetative branched-like structure of mushrooms. The solid fibrous structure of the mycelium can be treated with lignocellulosic materials at specific temperatures and pressure to further manufacture products such as food and beverages, packaging, clothing, and other miscellaneous products.
From organic plastics to scaffolding that can be used to grow organs, mycelium can be used to create a variety of things. Additionally, foam packaging is one of the most common and useful commercial applications of mycelium.
The growth of the global mycelium market can be attributed to factors such as increasing focus on sustainable packaging, rising mushroom production, and fulfilling global plant-based meat requirements.
According to a report by BIS Research, the global mycelium market was valued at $2.48 billion in 2020, and it is expected to grow with a CAGR of 7.7% and reach $3.84 billion by 2026.
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The growth in the global mycelium market is expected to be driven by increasing demand for sustainable materials and their contribution to the circular economy.
What makes mycelium advantageous?
Using mycelium over polystyrene foam or other polymer and plastic packaging is advantageous in several scenarios. Some of these include:
Biodegradable and Durable: If consumers are demanding eco-friendly packaging materials, strength and reliability would still be on the checklist for most products. Mycelium is an organic, biodegradable product that is durable, and this serves as a major advantage over other materials.
Grown with Home Packs: With the easy availability of raw materials for mycelium packaging, it works as magic for small businesses. Mycelium is also useful for any company that aims to gain major control over raw materials for its products.
Consumer Preference: Due to its sustainable nature, mycelium has an inherent advantage over polystyrene foam. Mycelium is cost-competitive material that is equally effective as any other packaging material. Companies seeking compostable or biodegradable packaging products are more likely to prefer mycelium as their prime packaging material option.
Versatile Base Material: Mycelium foam is not only used for packaging, but several useful products can be made with it, which includes an extensive list of applications and possibilities, such as outdoor jackets, insoles, and shoes.
Abundant, Sustainable, and Inexpensive: Mycelium foams are created from farm waste, which is readily available all over the world. They are renewable and available abundantly. The production of mycelium foam is quite inexpensive and cost-effective as compared to polystyrene foam.
What is the development status of the mycelium market?
The favored strategy for many companies has been product launches to strengthen their position in the mycelium market. For instance, in January 2022, M&S Food collaborated with Monaghan Group to supply mycelium protein-based vegetable balls and vegetable mince to expand its plant kitchen range.
The global mycelium market analyzed and profiled in the study by researchers involves mycelium-based product manufacturers that provide raw or processed products in abundance. Moreover, a detailed competitive benchmarking in the global mycelium market has been done to help the reader understand how companies stack against each other, presenting a clear market landscape.
Sustainability is now catching major attention, and concerning this, many effective steps have been taken, such as the introduction of solar-powered microbes, smart food and beverages label, nanotechnology for food packaging, etc.
Though the mycelium market is still in the nascent phase, increased research and development activities are underway to develop more and more mycelium-based products, which are expected to increase the shift in consumer preference to plant-based meat and veganism from traditional options.
What is the future of mycelium?
As mycelium has become more common as a material used in packaging, more mycelium products are expected to witness robust adoption shortly. Styrofoam is expected to constitute a smaller portion of the global materials budget but can’t be called completely gone.
As far as other uses of mycelium are concerned, clothing and lampshades are currently in demand.
The primary purpose of mycelium is to provide a sustainable alternative to nonbiodegradable single-use packaging, as it is an incredibly innovative material.
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