Three Mushketeers startup turns mushroom waste into powder to improve the taste of vegetarian food

Fighting food waste


Incubators at the University of Helsinki and a Helsinki Think Company idea accelerator have propelled the innovation, in which the University of Helsinki Funds invested €50,000 under the HELSEED student entrepreneurship programme.

Three Mushketeers / Sari Tuomaala

In the photo from left Ida Nikkilä, Emma Kynkäänniemi and Emmi Korjus

When we buy mushrooms from the shop, we get beautiful unblemished balls of similar size. Slightly damaged, too large or small mushrooms, as well as their stems, are kept away from consumer packaging as the food industry considers them waste. 

An innovation by the Three Mushketeers startup puts these surplus mushrooms to use. The company has developed a mushroom powder that improves the taste of vegetarian dishes, effectively masking the flavours of legumes. The powder imbues food with a deep taste of umami.

The startup was founded by Emmi Korjus, Emma Kynkäniemi and Ida Nikkilä, who got to know one another in a research group at the University. The team has expertise in food technology, food chemistry and nutrition science.

At the moment, the second prototype of the mushroom powder is in the test stage.

“We have already agreed with a couple of industry partners on testing the powder in their products. 

Our goal is to find partners with whom we will complete the development and take the product to the market,” Korjus says.

If all goes to plan, the mushroom powder will be in production by the end of 2024. 

Incubators drive innovation forward

The idea of a mushroom powder that improves the taste of food began to take shape when the team took part in the Ruokis idea accelerator organised by Helsinki Think Company in 2021.

“Initially, we intended to utilise a mycoprotein, but after discussing this with industry representatives, we noticed that businesses manufacturing plant-based products are currently looking for more options to improve the flavour profile of their products,” Korjus says.

Following the Ruokis accelerator, the team took part in two more University of Helsinki incubators. The first was the Germinator pre-incubator at Viikki Food Design Factory. According to Korjus, the pre-incubator was useful, provided contacts and advanced the innovation. 

“We also gained access to a laboratory facility in Viikki where we had the chance to develop our product. These days, we are renting the same facility,” Korjus says.

After the pre-incubator concluded in spring 2023, the team was ready to start a business around their idea. 

Business journey could have ended without University investment

The team also participated in HELSEED, a student entrepreneurship programme at the University, submitting their business plan for assessment. In summer 2023, the University of Helsinki Funds decided to invest to invest €50,000 in the company. 

According to Deputy Chief Investment Officer Marko Berg of the University of Helsinki, Three Mushketeers is a good example of the kind of entrepreneurship the University is expected to generate.

“People come together to brainstorm and combine their expertise to solve topical challenges. I’m sure that the team will gain a lot from hatching the business idea and their entrepreneurial skills,” Berg says.

According to Emmi Korjus, the University’s experts have provided a lot of support and information related to entrepreneurship, including legal advice. 

“The investment was very significant to us, as without it the company’s journey could have ended before it really even got started. It felt easy to accept a reliable university as the first investor,” Korjus says. 

Turning towards the large European market

The team also took part in the University’s Nexus incubator, which ended in February 2024. According to Korjus, Nexus demanded even stronger commitment and an intensive approach to advancing the innovation. In particular, the incubator focused on business expertise, with two mentors from outside the University assisting the participants. 

“Mentoring and the investment made by the University’s funds have helped us develop our business idea and made it possible to concentrate on growing our business operations on a full-time basis,” says Korjus, summing up the benefits of the incubators and the investment.

At the moment, Three Mushketeers is looking for additional funding to enable growth, as well as reinforcements for the team. 

“We aim for the European market and are now looking for European incubators to get contacts from different countries.”

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