Pleuro - The Bothas Story
Local entrepreneur set to take the health food market by storm with secret superfood ingredient and artisan product
When South African-born farmer and amateur mycologist (the branch of biology concerned with the study of fungi) Michael Botha moved to the UK with his family, he brought with him an idea to develop a unique, environmentally-friendly product that would transform the way we eat.
Rich in vitamins and minerals, Michael has been fascinated by the medicinal and health properties of mushrooms for as long as he can remember. His initial idea to utilise mushrooms as a meat substitute came from a recipe adapted from a popular South African sausage-based delicacy called Boerewors. Dubious of highly-processed, non-nutritional products like soya or artificially produced "slurry" and inspired by the thriving gourmet mushroom market here in the UK; Michael began to develop recipes using his collection of gourmet mushrooms to develop meat substitute products. After his ‘secret ingredient’ spaghetti Bolognese became a firm family favourite (using ground mushroom instead of mince), Michael began to develop products through his business KJM Foods and the ‘Pleuro’ More Than Meat brand was born.
Pleuro is a vitamin and mineral rich mushroom-based product made from oyster and other exotic mushrooms. With their delicate, mild flavour and velvety texture, oyster mushrooms proved to be the perfect superfood ingredient in his popular non-meat based products such as sausage rolls. Having tested the market at local trade fairs and food events, Michael’s ‘Pleuro’ meat substitute received rave reviews – most notably from self-confessed mushroom ‘haters’. Describing the mushroom as a sponge to soak up the flavour of everything around it, Michael was soon inspired to expand his product range with vegan sausages. Michael’s ‘superfoods’ are unsurprisingly, a hit with health-conscious foodies and can be found for sale at the Northumberland Sausage Company counter in Fenwick’s, Newcastle, as well as various specialist vegan outlets and local cafés across the region.
As Michael explains, ‘Mushrooms, especially oyster mushrooms have been noted for their medicinal properties for thousands of years, growing in rich abundance on trees and woodland. Containing a cocktail of protein-building amino acids to help our bodies build and repair muscle, they also contain no cholesterol and significant levels of zinc, iron, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin C and folic acid just to name a few.’
Low in fat, salt and sugar; Pleuro sausage rolls and vegan sausages are a no brainer where health conscious food critics are concerned, and Michael’s More Than Meat Pleuro product is also perfect for meat-eaters looking to cut down their consumption without compromising on taste, texture or quality. A keen forager and grower, Michael is also keen to support local businesses, meaning the Pleuro range is manufactured and distributed by the Northumberland Sausage Company.
As new products are developed to enhance the existing Pleuro range, the company are always looking to add to their existing distribution network and work with more likeminded businesses across the region. As we face ongoing concerns about the future of our food and its origins, Michael is a keen advocate of mushrooms thanks to their environmentally-friendly, sustainable properties. With ambitions to get involved in community-led projects and indulge his amateur love of mycology, Michael also hopes to start a social enterprise which will teach people how to grow mushrooms and educate them on the beneficial properties and health benefits of including them in food, alongside plans to develop a natural, nutrient-rich dog food using mushrooms. The future of the food will come under the spotlight at the end of February and Michael will be attending the Future Chef, Future City event at Newcastle's Science City aims to explore food sustain ability in February and showcasing the Pleuro brand to a wider audience.
Watch this space!
- Growing mushrooms was a natural progression for Michael Botha, 55 whose family in South Africa have been farmers for generations.
- Michael moved to the UK in 2008, launching KJM Foods in August 2014.
- Pleuro and More Than Meat are products produced under the KJM Foods trading name and contain oyster mushrooms grown in the UK.
- More Than Meat sausage contains 7.6% fat and vegan sausages contain just 3.1% fat.
- For further information please visit pleuro.co.uk