Aldi’s Next Big Thing contestant praises Food Technology Centre’s support

Gareth Griffith-Swain said the centre had been ‘essential’ to his startup Fungi Foods ahead of his appearance on the Channel 4 Show

A mushroom expert who is set to appear on ‘Aldi’s Next Big Thing’ has praised the support he received from The Food Technology Centre in helping grow his business.

Gareth Griffith-Swain, from Waunfawr, will appear on the Channel 4 show next Tuesday (May 7, 8pm), in the ‘Healthy and Wholesome’ episode.

Entrepreneur Gareth is the founder of Fungi Foods, a startup specialising in fresh exotic mushrooms, including the Lion's Mane variety.

The 33-year-old was picked from hundreds of applicants competing for a contract to stock Aldi stores nationwide and will be presenting his versatile dried version of the functional shrooms.

In dried format, it can be used in cookery or added to soups, coffee, smoothies or tea, as an easy way to consume daily.

Gareth was supported in his startup by Grŵp Llandrillo Menai’s Food Technology Centre in Llangefni.

He used the centre for shelf-life testing and bespoke food safety training through Project HELIX last year, and has used the centre’s food preparation halls to develop his product.

Gareth said: "The Food Technology Centre has supported me on multiple projects, from new product development, shelf-life testing to food safety mentoring.

“The centre has been an essential part of the success of the business. The food technologists have been great and are always on hand to offer their support and knowledge. The halls are supplied with all the equipment I need and they’ve always provided support with their operation when needed.

“It’s a fantastic asset to Grŵp Llandrillo Menai and the work they do to assist local food and drink businesses is second to none. The service I’ve received has been invaluable, and it has helped us plan the next stages of the business and see how we can grow and develop, as well as the mushrooms!”

Presented by Anita Rani and Chris Bavin, Aldi’s Next Big Thing is a six-part series which sees suppliers compete in a range of categories including dinners and baked goods, as well as exciting new category additions: party, world, and confectionery.

Products are presented to Julie Ashfield, Managing Director of Buying at Aldi UK, who deliberates on factors such as price, packaging, shopper demand, and the ability to scale up, before shortlisting contestants down to just two.

Finalists are then given four weeks to address any feedback, with a follow-up home visit from Anita or Chris who will report back their findings to Julie. The three then taste-test the improved products, before Julie decides the winner which will appear as a Specialbuy in more than 1,000 stores.

Gareth claims mushrooms are a sustainable, versatile and delicious food source, and it’s his mission to showcase the beautiful varieties out there.

He said: “I believe mushrooms have a big part to play in the future of food. There is a lot of neurological research focused on two compounds found in Lion’s Mane that help the growth of brain receptors. In doing that, they can improve memory, focus and concentration.”

To find out if Gareth’s Lion’s Mane mushrooms made it onto Aldi’s shelves, watch Aldi’s Next Big Thing on Channel 4 on Tuesday 7th May.

  • If your food and drink company is based in Wales you may be eligible for Project HELIX-funded support from the Food Technology Centre. Eligible companies have access to a range of support. Project HELIX is funded by the Welsh Government.