Cargill is pouring more money into alternative proteins.

Just don't call this one plant-based.

The Minnetonka-based agribusiness recently invested an undisclosed sum into Enough, a Scottish company rapidly expanding the use of fungi and fermentation to create meat-like mycoproteins (the "myco" comes from mycology, the study of mushrooms and fungi).

Enough makes a high-protein, high-fiber meat substitute out of yeast in a facility next door to a Cargill plant in the Netherlands. Cargill is already providing the company grain sugars to feed the yeast in a process similar to making beer.

The brand Quorn pioneered the use of mycoproteins decades ago, and Hormel Foods partnered with mycoprotein maker The Better Meat Co. in 2021, though the category is still a sliver of alternative protein sales as the technology evolves.

"When you look at what's coming in this space, and how do we get things that are more nutritious, more healthful and with a better cost, taste and texture, this kind of checks all those boxes," Cargill's head of alternative proteins, Elizabeth Gutschenritter, said in a recent interview. "The fibrous nature of it really helps with texture, and it's got a really neutral profile."

Enough's signature product, Abunda, is sold to food manufacturers and can be used to replace chicken, red meat, seafood and dairy in finished products. Cargill has signed a commercial agreement to buy and market the ingredient and will help "co-create" consumer products with its customers.

The partnership has been years in the making for Belgin Kose, Cargill's managing director of global meat and dairy alternative solutions, who came across the company at a conference in London in 2019.

"I literally fell in love with what they were saying, thinking this is really unusual, this is really disruptive," she said. "This is an area where Cargill would like to grow further, and there's definitely momentum to propel us."

Unlike plant-based protein that may require processing and isolating ingredients, Enough's Abunda comes out as a solid biomass ready to be used as-is, reducing waste. Scaling fermentation operations is also easier than other approaches, Gutschenritter said.

The Scottish company opened its 160,000-square-foot facility in 2022 and has received more than $100 million in funding — recently doubling production to 20,000 tons a year.

That's about on par with recently built capacity at Colorado-based mycoprotein company Meati, which has also raised considerable venture dollars in recent years.

Enough will focus first on European customers but could expand to North America as early as next year, Kose said.

Mycoprotein sales are expected to triple in revenue over the next decade to nearly $1 billion, according to Future Market Insights. The research firm found mycoproteins today comprise about 5% of alternative protein sales.

Cargill's investment comes as sales growth in plant-based protein has slowed and breakout brands such as Beyond and Impossible have lost their early luster.

Kose said a convergence of trends like health, sustainability and "flexitarian" eating will keep the category growing long-term while new and old brands address texture, cost and nutrition.

"The market is in a state of flux," she said. "New technologies and new ingredients like mycoprotein will help on the sensory part, which is a big hurdle, but also on the cost. This is aiming to become something that will enable cost parity with animal counterparts."

The company sees alternatives to meat as a crucial part of its business — and meeting the globe's future protein needs.

"When we look at population growth, and just consumer demand for options, plant-based is going to be the vehicle for a lot of that," Gutschenritter said. "A 70% increase in protein demand over the next 30 years cannot be done with what we have now."

But Cargill, one of the nation's largest meatpackers, won't be turning away from animal agriculture.

"For us, it's always going to be about both."

Star Tribune business editor Kristen Painter contributed to this story.