By Mike Pomranz
Updated July 19, 2016
© Craig Warga/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Mushrooms may seem like an unlikely choice to make foods sweeter. And though many magical mushrooms exist out there, no one has discovered the fungal equivalent of sugar cane. However, a Colorado-based company says they’ve found a way to use mushrooms as a unique sweetener alternative, not by making foods sweeter but by making them less bitter.

“What we’ve done is create something that’s totally the opposite of a masking agent,” Alan Hahn, CEO of MycoTechnology, told Quartz. “We created a bitter blocker.” Though definitely unorthodox, the mechanism by which the company’s product works is still intuitive. Typically, sugar levels need to be increased to mask other flavors; what MycoTechnology’s fungus-based, flavorless powder does is temporarily coat bitter-detecting taste buds to give foods the appearance of tasting sweeter than they actually are.

Experimenting with the mycelium powder at MycoTechnology

The potential health benefits are supposedly far reaching. Naturally sweetened products could potentially taste just as sweet with far less sugar. Meanwhile, people dislike many artificial sweeteners because of their bitter aftertastes, a problem MycoTechnology says they can cover. And since the powder itself is made from mycelium, part of a fungus’s root system, it qualifies as a “natural flavor.”

Hahn was a bit vague about which specific products may contain his company’s crazy mushroom powder, which is FDA-approved, but falls under the broader category of “natural flavors,” though he did say they are working with one of the biggest stevia producers, yogurt companies and flour producer Ardent Mills. He also said they’re looking to increase annual production to 20 metric tons a year – meaning mushroom-enhanced foods are probably coming to a store near you whether you know it or not.