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FounderMarlow Foods Ltd (JV between RHM & ICI)
HeadquartersStokesley, North Yorkshire,
Area served
OwnerMonde Nissin Corporation (2015–present)

Quorn is a meat substitute product originating in the UK and sold primarily in Europe, but is available in 18 countries.[1] Quorn is sold as both a cooking ingredient and as the meat substitute used in a range of prepackaged meals.

All Quorn foods contain mycoprotein as an ingredient, which is derived from the Fusarium venenatum fungus and is grown by fermentation.[2] In most Quorn products, the fungus culture is dried and mixed with egg albumen, which acts as a binder, and then is adjusted in texture and pressed into various forms. A vegan formulation also exists that uses potato protein as a binder instead of egg albumen.

Quorn was launched in 1985 by Marlow Foods, a joint venture between Rank Hovis McDougall (RHM) and Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI), and is now owned by Monde Nissin Corporation.[3]


Microbial biomass is produced commercially as single-cell protein (SCP) for human food or animal feed and as viable yeast cells for the baking industry. The industrial production of bakers' yeast started in the early 1900s and yeast biomass was used as human food in Germany during World War I. The development of large-scale processes for the production of microbial biomass as a source of commercial protein began in earnest in the late 1960s. Several of the processes investigated did not come to fruition owing to political and economic problems but the establishment of the ICI Pruteen process for the production of bacterial SCP for animal feed was a milestone in the development of the fermentation industry. This process used continuous culture on a large scale (1500 m3). The economics of the production of SCP as animal feed were marginal, which eventually led to the discontinuation of the Pruteen process. The technical expertise gained from the Pruteen process assisted ICI in collaborating with Rank Hovis McDougall on a process for the production of fungal biomass for human food. A continuous fermentation process for the production of Fusarium venenatum biomass (marketed as Quorn) was developed using a 40-m3 air-lift fermenter.[4][5]

During the 1960s, it was predicted that by the 1980s there would be a shortage of protein-rich foods.[6][7] In response to this, research programmes were undertaken to use single-cell biomass as an animal feed. Contrary to the trend,[clarification needed] J. Arthur Rank instructed the Rank Hovis McDougall (RHM) Research Centre to investigate converting starch (the waste product of cereal manufacturing undertaken by RHM) into a protein-rich food for human consumption.[citation needed][clarification needed]

The filamentous fungus, Fusarium venenatum, was discovered in a soil sample in 1967.[8] In 1985, RHM was given permission to sell mycoprotein for human consumption after a ten-year evaluation programme.[9][10]

Retail history[edit]

Quorn (it derives its name from the Leicestershire village of Quorn)[11] was first marketed in 1985 by Marlow Foods (named after Rank Hovis McDougall's headquarters in Marlow, Buckinghamshire), a joint venture between RHM and Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI), who provided a fermenter left vacant from their abandoned single-cell feed programme. The two partners invested in patents for growing and processing the fungus, and other intellectual properties in the brand.

Quorn entered distribution in the UK in 1993, and was introduced to other parts of Europe in the 1990s, and to North America in 2002.[12] The initial advertising campaign for Quorn featured sports personalities, including footballer Ryan Giggs, rugby player Will Carling, and Olympic runner Sally Gunnell. In 2013 the company appointed Mo Farah as its ambassador in a marketing push for fitness.[13][14][15]

Quorn brand mycoprotein is sold in ready-to-cook forms, such as cubes and a form resembling minced meat. The company later introduced a range of chilled vegetarian meals, including pizzas, lasagne, cottage pie, and products resembling sliced meat, hot dogs, and burgers.[16] By 2005 Quorn enjoyed around 60% of the meat-replacement food market in the UK, with annual sales of around £95 million.[7][17] By 2006 it was available in stores in: the UK; Europe (Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland); and North America (Canada and United States). Since June 2010, it has been available in Australia.[18][19] In May 2012 Quorn Foods opened the German website quorn.de to relaunch Quorn in Germany.

After its producer switched to using free-range eggs as an ingredient, the Vegetarian Society gave the product its seal of approval.[20]

In 2004, McDonald's introduced a Quorn-branded burger bearing the seal of approval of the Vegetarian Society.[21][22] As of 2009, the Quorn burgers were no longer available at any McDonald's restaurant in the UK. In 2011 Quorn Foods launched a vegan burger into the US market, using potato protein as a binder instead of egg albumen, to confer vegan status.[23] According to Quorn's website, by 2013 a number of Quorn items were available in US markets, most of which are vegetarian but not vegan, as they contain milk or cheese and egg white or albumen. In addition, some contain wheat, gluten and/or soy.

As of 2014, it was reported that most consumers of Quorn are meat eaters rather than vegetarians.[24] The market for Quorn products is increasing worldwide and the company expects further growth.[25][26]

Ownership history[edit]

Originally conceived in 1985 and owned by Marlow Foods, a joint venture between Rank Hovis McDougall (RHM) and Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI), RHM exited the business in 1990 by selling its shares to ICI. When ICI spun off its biological products divisions from the core chemical business in 1993, Marlow Foods became a part of the newly formed Zeneca group, later AstraZeneca.

In 2003, AstraZeneca sold Marlow Foods, including the Quorn business and associated trademarks and patents, to Montagu Private Equity for £72m. Montagu sold the business on to Premier Foods in 2005 for £172m.[17]

In 2011, Premier Foods sold Quorn to Exponent Private Equity and Intermediate Capital Group for £205 million.[27][28] In 2015, the owners put the company up for sale via a business auction process. Attracting bidders including Danone, Kerry Group, McCain Foods and Nomad Foods, it was sold to Monde Nissin Corporation headquartered in the Philippines for £550m ($831m).[29][30]

Quorn Mince, 100g
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy393 kJ (94 kcal)
4.5 g
Dietary fibre6.0 g
2 g
Saturated0.5 g
14.5 g
Tryptophan0.18 g
Threonine0.61 g
Isoleucine0.57 g
Leucine0.95 g
Lysine0.91 g
Methionine0.23 g
Phenylalanine0.54 g
Valine0.60 g
Histidine0.39 g

sources: mycoprotein.org[31] quorn.co.uk[32]
Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.


Quorn fillets – fried, defrosted and frozen

Quorn is made from the soil mould Fusarium venenatum strain PTA-2684 (previously misidentified as the parasitic mould Fusarium graminearum[33]). The fungus is grown in continually oxygenated water in large, otherwise sterile fermentation tanks. Glucose and fixed nitrogen are added as a food for the fungus, as are vitamins and minerals to improve the food value of the product. The resulting mycoprotein is then extracted and heat-treated to remove excess levels of RNA. Previous attempts to produce such fermented protein foodstuffs were thwarted by excessive levels of DNA or RNA; without the heat treatment, purines, found in nucleic acids, are metabolised by humans to produce uric acid, which can lead to gout.[34] However two recent studies have found dietary factors once believed to be associated with gout are in fact not, including the intake of purine-rich vegetables and total protein.[35][36] The Mayo Clinic, meanwhile, advises gout sufferers to avoid some foods that are high in purines.[37]

The product is dried and mixed with egg albumen, which acts as a binder. It is then textured, giving it some of the grained character of meat, and pressed into a mince resembling ground beef; forms resembling chicken breasts, meatballs, and turkey roasts; or chunks resembling diced chicken breast. In these forms, Quorn has a varying colour and a mild flavour resembling the imitated meat product, and is suitable for use as a replacement for meat in many dishes, such as stews and casseroles.

The final Quorn product is high in protein and dietary fibre and is low in saturated fat. It contains less dietary iron than most meats and the manufacturers have not released much information about additives they use to make Quorn resemble meat. Quorn is considered acceptable in small amounts for babies over nine months old but should be introduced gradually. The high fibre and low calorie content is better for adults than babies and too much fibre can cause flatulence. The salt content should be checked before giving Quorn to babies since the salt content varies among products.[38][39]

The carbon footprint of Quorn Frozen Mince in the UK is claimed to be at least 80% less than that of beef.[40]

Quorn for the UK and European market is produced at Marlow's headquarters in Stokesley, North Yorkshire and at nearby Billingham in Stockton-on-Tees.[41]


Quorn's 2002 debut in the US was more problematic than its European introduction. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) expressed multiple concerns over the product.[42] Much of the concern from CSPI and others was over the original labeling of Quorn as a "mushroom based" product, since Fusarium venenatum is not a mushroom (rather, it is a microfungus).[42] The sale of Quorn was contested by the American Mushroom Institute, rival Gardenburger, as well as the CSPI. They filed complaints with advertising and trading-standards watchdogs in Europe and the US, claiming the labelling of Quorn as "mushroom based" was deceptive.[42][43] The CSPI observed that while a mushroom is a fungus, Fusarium is not a mushroom, and stated, "Quorn's fungus is as closely related to mushrooms as humans are to jellyfish."[44]

CSPI also claimed that Quorn could cause allergic reactions and should be removed from stores. Calling the product "fungus food", CSPI claimed in 2003 that it "sickens 4.5% of eaters".[45] The manufacturer (Marlow Foods) disputes the figure, claiming that only 0.0007% (1 in 146,000) suffer adverse reactions and that the strain of fungus it uses does not produce toxins.[45] The CSPI's claims were also described by Leslie Bonci, professor of nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh, as "overblown".[46] Wendy Preiser, Gardenburger's vice president of marketing, said the company was afraid that Quorn's labels would cause people to be suspicious about all meat-free products.[47][46]

The UK's Advertising Standards Authority also had concerns over Marlow's practice of marketing Quorn as "mushroom in origin", saying it had been "misleading consumers". The ASA noted "despite the advertiser’s explanation that they used the term because customers were unfamiliar with the main ingredient, mycoprotein, the ASA considered that the claim implied that Quorn was made from mushroom. Marlow Foods were asked either to delete the claim or give in the same font size a statement of the mycoprotein origin of the product or the fungal origin of the product."[48]

Quorn's acceptance in the vegetarian market was hampered by the use of battery eggs in its production process, a practice opposed on ethical grounds by many in the vegetarian community. For this reason, the Vegetarian Society initially did not approve these products. Working with the Vegetarian Society, Marlow began phasing out battery eggs in 2000,[49] and by 2004 all Quorn products sold in the UK were produced without battery eggs, earning the Vegetarian Society's seal of approval.[20]

An asthma attack in 2003 was linked to Quorn, which the patient had eaten an hour earlier. Scientists' tests showed Quorn to be the only food to which the patient had an allergic reaction. A spokesperson for the Food Standards Agency stated that an allergy was not surprising because of the high protein content.[50] Former FSA director Jon Bell responded in defence of Quorn stating that several commonly consumed foods and food ingredients—such as soya—have a much higher intolerance level than Quorn. Adverse reactions were reported for 1 in 146,000 people who ate Quorn, compared to 1 in 35 who ate shellfish and 1 in 350 who ate soya.[50][51]


Clinical studies have demonstrated that mycoprotein has positive physiological effects due to its high content in fibre and protein, the low content of carbohydrates and the fact that its fat content is mostly unsaturated. It has been proven that mycoprotein reduces total cholesterol and LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein), induces satiety and can reduce the glycemic response when present with carbohydrate-rich foods.[52]


The first proof that mycoprotein was capable of reducing total cholesterol and LDL in blood was in a tolerance study,[53] where the only significant change in blood analysis was the decrease of cholesterol during the mycoprotein phase of the study (where the participants ingested mycoprotein). Two studies[54][55] at King’s College (University of London), demonstrated that mycoprotein lowers total and LDL cholesterol in subjects with slightly raised levels under two different conditions: under clinical ingest control and in a free ingest condition. In the first study,[54] clinically prepared meals were provided to 17 subjects, which consumed 190 g/day of mycoprotein for 3 weeks. Total cholesterol and LDL in blood were significantly reduced, whereas HDL (High Density Lipoprotein) increased. In the second study,[55] 21 subjects were provided with 27 g/day of mycoprotein in dry weight (approximately 130 g/day of regular moisture mycoprotein) in form of a biscuit for 8 weeks. Blood samples were recollected at the beginning, at 4 weeks and at 8 weeks. Total cholesterol and LDL decreased during the study, but no statistically significant differences were observed in HDL cholesterol.

A pilot study,[56] based on 21 subjects who didn’t consume mycoprotein, whom were asked to ingest it for 6 weeks. Ten of those subjects continued with their regular diets, being the control group. It was proven that cholesterol in individuals who present high contents is reduced, but the authors conclude stating that a more rigorous study with more participants is needed to know if mycoprotein ingest also intervenes in other aspects, such as of glucose in blood reduction or blood pressure.

Effects on satiety[edit]

A study[57] demonstrated that when subjects received meals of similar nutritional values based either on chicken or mycoprotein, those who received mycoprotein felt less hungry in the evening, and when dinner time came, they ate less when compared to those who ate chicken. In another study[58] with the same dynamic, these results were validated, and it was also demonstrated that the next ingest in the sequent day, it was also lower in quantity compared with the other group, proving that diets with a high content of mycoprotein can have a positive effect on appetite regulation.

Effects on the glycaemic response[edit]

Mycoprotein has also the ability to reduce the glycaemic response, that is the rate of change in blood glucose, following the ingest of such. In a study,[59] 19 subjects were asked to fast overnight, and the next morning they received either a milkshake with soya flour and milk or a milkshake with 20 g of mycoprotein. Blood samples were recollected before ingesting the milkshake, and at intervals of 30 minutes for 120 minutes. The glucose response in serum was statistically significant lower in the subjects who received the mycoprotein compared to the control group. The insulin in blood also had a similar behaviour. The authors concluded saying that mycoprotein could be a beneficial supplement in diets for diabetic people.

Mycoprotein patent expiration[edit]

In the European Union, patents expire after 20 years from their filing date. Since the first patent application was filed in 1985,[60] the mycoprotein patents had already expired in 2010 in all EU countries. Now anyone can legally produce mycoprotein products using the previously patented processes (but using other brand names, because Marlow Foods maintains ownership of the Quorn brand name). On 14 March 2011, CEO Kevin Brennan said in an interview: "Some patents surrounding the core technology have expired, but the product uses a peculiar fermentation method, and we have 30-plus years' experience in perfecting this on site to produce the product better and at a lower cost. Huge related costs include £30m cost for a fermentation tower and related equipment, so you can't simply look at a patent and say 'there you go'."[61]

Vegan version of product[edit]

In late 2011, the first vegan Quorn product was released, called the Quorn Vegan Burger,[62] available initially only in the US. Following strong sales of the product and increasing demand from the UK market, Quorn began development of a line of vegan products for the UK market, as well as reducing its use of eggs overall, using 3.5 million fewer eggs since 2010.[63] The first range of vegan Quorn in the UK included eight products and was launched in October 2015.[64] In 2019 Quorn produced a vegan sausage roll for Greggs bakery, in the UK.[65]

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]