Food In Canada

A natural shelf-life extender for clean label foods and beverages

By Lilian Schaer for Canadian Food Innovation Network   

Research & Development Ingredients & Additives Canadian Food Innovation Network Chinova Bioworks Food innovation food safety New Brunswick Preservatives sustainability

Photo © Roibu/Getty

Food and beverage processors are looking for ingredients to meet the growing demand for clean label foods and products with healthier, more natural ingredients – but without compromising product safety or quality.

Atlantic Canada-based Chinova Bioworks has invented a natural shelf-life extender called Chiber for processed food and beverage products using chitosan, a dietary fibre extracted from white button mushrooms.

“Preservation is essential for almost all consumer products, but natural and effective solutions have been really hard to find – and this is really where Chinova helps fill the gap,” says Natasha Dhayagude, CEO and co-founder of Chinova Bioworks.

“People want healthy, but also convenient food. One of the ingredients consumers have the biggest issue with are chemical preservatives, but in order for processed foods to be convenient to us, they need to have a suitable shelf life and not be full of spoilage bacteria, yeast or mold,” adds chief operating officer and co-founder David Brown. “Our ingredient Chiber is a healthy, natural fibre that can protect processed foods from spoilage due to microorganisms like mold.”



Through the Canadian Food Innovation Network (CFIN) Emerging Science Research Cluster, Chinova Bioworks completed a major study into the overall mechanisms of action of the fibre and the highly customized ingredient that could achieve similar results to the traditional chemical preservatives that food companies are trying to replace.

Real food models were used to gain an understanding of how Chiber ingredient could work in real processed foods on the market in Canada today.

“We started by researching the underlying mechanism of why this is an antimicrobial. Once we could highlight the specific fibre fragments that work against each spoilage bacteria, yeast or mould, the final work then was to test in some real-world applications the different food and beverage models to get an understanding of how it actually performs,” explains Brown.

The company was able to determine the optimal amounts of white button mushroom extract needed to achieve a shelf life comparable to that of synthetic preservatives. They also established how to apply the ingredient in a cost-effective way so that it is an affordable solution for food and beverage processors.

“This project allowed for the development of a final market-ready product that can be used to provide a healthy and natural replacement to synthetic preservatives being used in Canada,” says Brown. “It has given us the data and evidence we need to work with potential clients, and at the same time, make the required regulatory filings in Canada, the United States, and the European Union.”

Chinova’s innovation also creates new value for mushroom growers. Traditionally, the mushroom cap is sold whereas the stem is sent to compost or landfill. That’s the material Chinova uses as feedstock for Chiber, keeping it out of landfill and adding a new income source for farmers.

The company’s initial client targets are Canadian juice, dairy and plant-based dairy alternative producers, with three products in the market under the trade name Chiber: Chiber for Beverages, Chiber for Dairy and Chiber for Plant-Based Dairy Alternatives.

Chinvoa is also working on versions of their ingredient for the baked goods and sauce segments of the food industry.

Since completing the research and launching its technology, Chinova has moved into a new, larger facility in Charlottetown and its workforce has grown to include approximately 90 per cent women – a step the cluster funding helped make possible.

“Developing and launching these products really helped us meet major milestones for the business-like raising investment. The company has been able to expand the team, scale operations and work with multi-national food and beverage clients and come into revenue,” says Dhayagude. “The funding was able to help us take a product being built in a lab and launch it commercially in the market.”

 Why is this innovation important?

  • Extends shelf-life using a natural preservative
  • Reduces food waste and creates a circular economy
  • Enables plant-based food and beverage product formulations

 What does this project mean to Canada’s food processing industry?

A natural antimicrobial allows food processors to achieve clean label requirements, extend the shelf life of their products and increase their ability to sell into global markets.

About Chinova Bioworks

Chinova Bioworks is a Canadian company that addresses the growing consumer demand for healthy, natural, clean-label ingredients by providing food and beverage producers with a solution that ensures food safety, shelf life, and product quality. The company has developed an innovative antimicrobial ingredient, Chiber, that is based on a fibre called chitosan that is extracted from white button mushrooms.

About the project team

​David Brown is co-founder and chief operating officer of Chinova Bioworks. He’s a recipient of the 2017 Governor General’s Innovation Award and a graduate of the University of Alberta.

The Canadian Food Innovation Network Emerging Science Research Cluster is funded in part through the AgriScience Program under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. For more information, contact Laura Sider, science co-ordinator, CFIN.

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