'What exactly is Quorn?' It's a common enough question among the animal-chewing community. Us veggies know that it's based on a mycoprotein — a meat substitute derived from fungi. What few realise is that the versatile ingredient might not exist were it not for the River Thames.
Quorn was first launched onto the British Market in 1985, by Marlow Foods. The company name offers a clue to its origins. Quorn was developed from a fungus found growing in Marlow, Buckinghamshire.
The hunt for such foods began in the late 1960s amid fears that animal protein alone could not feed the world's growing population. Rather than kill large, doe-eyed beasts for their protein, perhaps a way could be found to scale up the nutritious offerings of smaller organisms. Researchers turned their attention to bacterial and fungal proteins that could be readily vatted for human consumption.
The breakthrough came in 1967 with the discovery of Fusarium venenatum. This microfungus was discovered in a soil sample from a field near the Thames at Marlow.
The mycoprotein was co-developed by ICI and Rank Hovis McDougall. No combination of their names would look pleasing on a supermarket shelf, so the product was eventually marketed under Marlow Foods — named after the source of the fungus. The brand name Quorn, meanwhile, is lifted from a village in Leicestershire.
The company now enjoys an annual turnover of around £200 million, with its seemingly endless lines of fakon, (s)ham slices and not dogs (our wordplay; sadly not official product names). And it all started in a field upstream of London.
To this day, we're baffled as to why the company has never launched Quorn liver (quiver?), nor a Quornish pasty.