Much Ado about Mushrooms

Charlotte Hurd


Fungus is in fashion...and sectors from beauty to food are embracing mushrooms and toadstools as the new in-vogue. 

And these little guys are big business, with consumer interest in functional mushrooms growing 64% globally since 2019 (Spoonshot, 2021). 

For consumers, foraging has seen a renaissance, as people continue to enjoy getting out and exploring nature. This enthusiasm and rise in the amateur mycologist has only been driven by influencers on TikTok and recent literature with a number of new fiction and non-fiction teaching consumers about the magic of mushrooms. 

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The future is funghi and brands across a number of sectors are realising the benefits of this new, unusual ingredient. 

Mushroom Super Status 

Used for hundreds of years in traditional Chinese medicine for their healing properties mushrooms are now commanding space in the beauty and wellness sector. 

And as "elevated stress and anxiety continue to drive consumers to seek out solutions in the beauty and wellness worlds" Alexia Inge, co-founder of UK e-tailer Cult Beauty notes "I have noticed more and more brands answering these concerns with mushroom-powered products". 

It is true that new, agile brands are capitalising on this trend. Beauty and wellness brand Mojo for example, blend functional mushrooms into gummies to help with energy and productivity. The effects of the fruit-flavoured chews are likened (cleverly) by the brand to a microdosing trip without the psychedelics, promising an 'afterglow' four hours after ingestion. 

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"Mushrooms occupy that unique intersection between ancient mysticism and progressive biohacking. It's like medicine man meets Silicon Valley." Alexia Inge

Beauty's Multi-Benefit Hero 

For years, beauty has drawn on green, leafy imagery to express natural ingredients, however as demand grows there has been a shift to brands showcasing psychedelic, plant stem and mushroom based imagery.

Cult Beauty recorded a 480% increase in searches for the term 'mushroom' from 2020 to 2021 (Cult Beauty), demonstrating the growing demand for fungi-based beauty products. 

"In food, mushrooms are nothing new, but they breathe new life into beauty products because they are so versatile and play well with other active ingredients to achieve the results that clean, plant-conscious consumers want." Claire McCormack, editor, Beauty Independent.

And beauty brands have been quick to create products with this in mind. Estée Lauder-owned Origins' 2005-launched 'Mega Mushroom' line is the most searched for in terms of mushrooms in skincare. 

Inflammation-fighting reishi mushrooms also feature in US wellness brand Moon Juice's Acid Potion to soothe redness. Whilst UK-based Olixa's 'Mushroom Facial Mist' combines reishi and shitake mushrooms to increase skin cell renewal. 

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Fungal Fabric 

Beyond their flavourful and functional benefits, mushrooms are being harnessed by fashion brands. From strong and sustainable bio-leathers to 'living' self-repairing construction materials, mushrooms have become a multitasking marvel. 

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Mylo, a leather-like mushroom material grown indoors in the Netherlands by Dutch material manufacturer Bold Threads is being used by a growing number of fashion brands. These include Stella McCartney and Adidas, who are releasing a mushroom leather version of its classic Stan Smith sneaker in 2022. 

Meanwhile, Dutch designer Emma Van der Leest is replacing the small amount of plastic often woven into bio-leathers to increase durability and waterproofing with a fungi-based coating. While still only in the concept phase, this coating could result in more durable vegan leathers, helping them become a truly sustainable alternative in future. 

TOO Takeaways 

- The use of mushrooms to create new materials such as bio-leather shows a broader approach to sustainability. Think outside the box when it comes to materials used and never underestimate the wealth in things that would otherwise be waste! 

- The use of mushroom based materials is in line with the consumers expectations around overall wellness. Origin of ingredients and natural sourcing combines with appetite for stress-reducing, faux psychedelic products. This shows that wraparound wellness is a continuing trend for consumers, which will translate into the kinds of products people purchase. 


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