Posted: 12/04/2022

Blue mould pioneers turn their hands to developing white varietals

After discovering how to breed blue cheese moulds, scientists have now turned their attention to getting white moulds in the mood for procreation in a bid to create new strains that could “revolutionise” brie-style cheeses.

Penicillium moulds were long thought to reproduce asexually, but Paul Dyer, professor of fungal biology at the University of Nottingham, has discovered a way to naturally breed different strains of Penicillium roqueforti to create completely new blue mould varieties that produce unique flavours, textures and colours in cheese.

The process, which has been licensed by bio-tech start-up Myconeos, is now also being used to develop new strains of the white mould Penicillium camemberti, backed by a £285,000 grant from the Government-funded Innovate UK scheme.

Scientists are currently hunting for wild strains of the white mould in dairies that they can cross-breed to create a range of new ripening cultures.

“This could revolutionise the taste, texture and even colour of brie and camembert-style cheeses,” said Dr Jacek Obuchowicz, CEO of Myconeos. “The market for these styles of cheeses is four or five times the size of the blue cheese market, so there is huge potential for growth.”

Myconeos is keen to hear from British artisan cheesemakers who are happy for swabs to be taken from their dairies, which could then be bred to create novel strains of Penicillium camemberti.

A similar programme was used to develop new types of blue moulds, which led to trials with artisan cheesemakers Moyden’s Hand Made Cheese in Shropshire and Highland Fine Cheeses in Ross-shire.

This led to the creation of four new blue mould varieties last year under the Mycoforti brand, including Classic, Mild, Intense and Artisan, which each provide different flavour and texture characteristics in cheese. They are distributed by JKM Foods.

A bespoke blue mould was also developed for Moyden’s by isolating a wild strain of blue mould from a hay bale at a Shropshire farm.

“We’d like to work with smaller cheesemakers on similar projects with Penicillium camemberti,” said Obuchowicz. “Commercialised strains can lose their vigour, but wild strains are often more active. They could bring interesting new properties.”

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