With mouth spray SuperMush, Alli Schaper and Brian Friedman want to get more people into mushrooms
Together, the founders have launched a health-enhancing mushroom mouth spray, and a curated shopping platform for all things fungi.
If you asked Alli Schaper and Brian Friedman what the most fascinating living thing in the world is, they would give you the same answer: mushrooms.
“There’s not a single problem that the world is facing that mushrooms cannot help solve,” says Schaper. “I don’t know what other organism you could say that about.”
Indeed, the problem-solving powers mushrooms — and the vast webs of underground mycelium they create — are now being exploited everywhere, from the packaging industry (which is hunting for biodegradable alternatives to plastics) to the medical community, where researchers see psilocybin as a potentially revolutionary therapeutic.
Then of course there is the wellness industry, which in recent years has embraced so-called “functional” ingredients like reishi, cordyceps and lion’s mane — all mushrooms long used in traditional Chinese medicine and which help regulate stress hormones and other internal functions.
Now Schaper and Friedman are seeing if they can make a living around these magical ingredients, first with their mushroom-based marketplace Multiverse and now with their just-launched brand of mushroom mouth sprays, SuperMush.
In 2020, noticing that interest in medicinal mushrooms was reaching fever pitch (bringing along with it plenty of dud products and questionable marketing claims), Schaper and Friedman got to work on building the Multiverse, a curated marketplace for mushroom products that could help consumers navigate this confusing landscape.
“Mushrooms are so misunderstood,” says Schaper, pointing to the tendency for functional mushrooms to be compared to ingredients like caffeine or CBD, which have much more immediate, noticeable effects on the body. “We like to think of ourselves as a Thrive Market for mushrooms.”
The platform hosts educational content, such as blog posts and podcasts, that explain everything from how mushrooms can support the immune system to the investment opportunities emerging in the psychedelics space.
Schaper also says that each product stocked on the platform is vetted in terms of the quality of ingredients used, and the benefits that the brand is claiming to deliver.
So far, around 40 brands have passed the test, with products from Rainbo, Plant People and Steep & Mellow all available on the site. But even after reviewing “thousands” of brands, Friedman says he and Schaper felt there was space for an entry-level product — something to appeal to the not-yet-converted.
Most brands in the space, Friedman says, have relied on the familiar forms of supplement pills, powders or tinctures to sell their formulas, resulting in a market that looks a bit same-y. These also aren’t always the most straightforward ways for people to actually take mushrooms, he adds.
“If it’s a powder, it takes time and can be messy [to mix], if it’s an alcohol-based tincture, it doesn’t taste good,” he explains. “My friends, when they try these different supplements and products, they’re turned off by it.”
Earlier this year, Schaper and Friedman finalized a $1.5 million seed round to put towards building their own line of products. In November 2021, SuperMush launched with a line of three mushroom-based sprays.
The thinking behind opting for a spritz-able format was that this delivery mechanism would be a much easier way for people to consume mushrooms and get the right dose each time. It's also thought that the body is better at absorbing supplements through the tongue.
It’s a format used by Pzaz — which makes a mist that delivers a small, controlled dose of caffeine — and for Beekeeper’s Natural’s anti-inflammatory throat spray, which counts Kylie Jenner among its fans. “It’s the most fun way to take supplements. It’s the easiest and most effective, and it’s more mobile,” says Schaper. “I think it’s an under-tapped format.”
Friedman says it took nine months of research and development to launch the brand, including an estimated $200,000 investment in creating the first three formulas.
The sprays are highly flavored to combat another problem people tend to have when they first try mushrooms: the taste. “Energy” has notes of citrus and green tea, “Chill” features hibiscus and the “Immunity” spray’s flavor is described as being like cinnamon toast. Still, some reviewers do find the taste to be a bit bitter, which the founders say is a learning curve.
“We wanted to make it so it didn’t have a ton of sugar or artificial sweeteners in it,” Schaper explains. “The one that’s most bitter is Chill, and it’s the hibiscus in combination with the reishi, which is a bitter mushroom. We tell people to go try the other products out there that are similar in potency — [ours] is much better.”