Coloring a Synthetic Biology Future:

The Mills Fabrica Invests in Michroma to Drive Clean Label Food Colorants

Who's Michroma?

The Mills Fabrica is delighted to announce our investment in Michroma, a precision fermentation food ingredient company that strives to bring clean-label food colorants to our food system.

Founded in 2019 by Ricky Cassini and Mauricio Braia, both from Argentina, Michroma started by developing a novel red colorant, Red+, from fungi using synthetic biology and precision fermentation. The Red+ is thermal and pH stable, which enables it to withstand common processes of pasteurization and extrusion in food manufacturing. With the potential of Michroma’s fungi platform to expand beyond colors to develop flavors in food, we believe that Michroma’s market potential would be worth billions as a pioneer in meeting the food industry’s increasing demand for clean-label ingredients.

Michroma’s fungi-derived food colorants emerge to address the limitations of both existing natural and artificial options. While natural food colorants derived from plants or insects have existed for a long time, they tend to lag behind their artificial counterparts in terms of stability and vibrancy. Novel production methods are anticipated, and we are excited by Michroma’s progress in R&D and production of its proprietary colorants.

On the other hand, the role of artificial colorants on adverse behavioral disorders has increasingly come under scrutiny in recent years. A two-year, multifaceted evaluation of seven synthetic food dyes – that have been approved by the FDA – by The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) indicated their association with adverse neurobehavioral outcomes in children. Michroma’s fungi-derived food colorants are set to disrupt the status quo and provide a better and safer alternative to consumers.

Michroma makes use of filamentous fungi, which can naturally produce stable warm color pigments. With warm colors taking up around 90% of the artificial food colorants in the US, Michroma’s solutions are commercially meaningful; its Red+ is already price competitive with other natural red colorants in the market. We expect to see a strong product pipeline of other colors and even flavors to be developed in the future with further application of Michroma’s bio-engineering process.

The technology and sustainability aspects of Michroma align well with our investment thesis. Michroma’s use of agricultural residues as feedstock not only helps reduce agricultural waste but also offers an alternative to burning or sending them to landfills, contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gases. With a shorter supply chain compared to artificial and natural food colorants this can also cut down the associated emissions. While these climate-related challenges are often lesser-known, we resonate with Michroma’s mission to deliver environmentally and socially sound solutions to these universal issues.

The Mills Fabrica has been keen to support innovations in the synthetic biology field. Michroma joins our investment portfolio alongside Huue and Colorifix; both engineer microbes to produce more sustainable color dyes for the textiles industry, helping reduce its reliance on petroleum resources. Our investment in Michroma hence extends our focus on coloring from the textiles sector to the food sector.

Michroma successfully closed this US$6.4 million seed round with an impressive base of global investors. The funds raised will help the company continue to scale up and navigate upcoming regulatory and market access. We are glad to be a part of Michroma’s journey and are excited to support the company’s growth. We believe the future will be more colorful and sustainable for the food industry, which, ultimately benefits consumers and the planet.