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Special edition: Protein-rich foods… the next generation

Could algae be the next big thing in the protein market? Part one: Solazyme Roquette Nutritionals

1 commentBy Elaine WATSON , 23-Jan-2013
Last updated the 23-Jan-2013 at 15:50 GMT

Much has been written about the potential of proteins such as pea and canola as firms seek alternatives to dairy and other carbon-intensive - and increasingly pricey - animal proteins. But what about microalgae?

From a marketing perspective, it ticks every box. It’s non-GMO, sustainable, vegan, non-allergenic, and bang on trend. But is it commercially viable, and will consumers eat it?

Not surprisingly, California-based Solazyme Roquette Nutritionals (SRN) - the first company to launch a commercial algal protein product targeting the human nutrition market - believes the answers are yes, and yes, although it is still early days.

Mild flavor, heat and acid stability, works well with other proteins

Solazyme Roquette Nutritionals is a JV formed by Californian algae expert Solazyme and French ingredients giant Roquette

SRN’s whole algalin protein Almagine HP - which contains 50% protein, 20% dietary fibers and 10% healthy lipids plus an array of trace minerals and micronutrients - is grown via heterotrophic fermentation, a controlled process utilizing big industrial vats to grow algae in the dark.

The algal strain in question is the same one used to produce SRN’s novel whole algalin flour, which is rich in healthy fats and fiber and used to partially or fully replace anything that is a source of fat, from egg yolk to butter or vegetable oil, says SRN technology VP Matt Patrick.

“We have managed to increase the protein content to more than 50% by manipulating the fermentation conditions.”

Currently, the product is produced from a large pilot facility, but the firm is now constructing a full scale facility that should be operational “in the middle to Q3 of this year”, says Patrick. A third facility is in the engineering phase, meanwhile.

A lighter, less dense texture than whey protein in bars

So who’s buying?

Patrick says the product is generating interest from a wide variety of manufacturers looking for cost-effective sources of protein for everything from powdered supplements to bars and ready-to-drink beverages.

“We know that we have to develop something that is comparable or better than current alternatives on a cost-in-use basis,” he says. But the product also has key technical advantages, aside from its ‘green’ and label-friendly credentials.

“One of the attractive aspects of Almagine HP is that it doesn’t interact with some other food ingredients, it’s heat stable, has a mild flavor, it’s stable in low pH environments, heat stable, and it blends well with other proteins”, he observes.

“It also has a lighter, less dense texture than whey in protein-fortified bars, while chocolate bars with it have a less gritty or particulate feel.

“It also works very well in opaque beverages such as dairy and dairy analogs.”

The protein market is heating up

The first products to hit the market at Almagine HL whole algalin flour and Almagine HP, whole algain protein. Next in the pipeline are oils and fibers

He adds: “The protein market is kind of heating up right now. Dairy prices are shooting up and we’re seeing a growing market of ‘designer proteins’ available in small quantities hit the market. People are also developing protein cocktails.

“We’re pretty excited about what we have to offer both in its own right but also in combination with other proteins. The market has been very receptive. They also know that this is just the beginning, that there are other products to come [SRN has already launched a ‘whole algalin flour’ and is currently developing new oils and fibers for commercialization].”

Moving onto Almagine HP’s nutritional profile, Patrick notes that “all the amino acids are in there, although what people want varies according to application, so we’re seeing interest in using it alone and in protein cocktails.”

Whole foods

But what do consumers think? While some people might see it fitting nicely into the plant protein space, it’s not technically a plant, Patrick points out.

But the word ‘whole’ (it’s listed on pack as ‘whole algalin protein’) definitely resonates with shoppers, who are looking for wholefoods and supplements, he says.

Click here to read part two of this article, our interview with Aurora Algae.  

Click here to watch our video interview with SRN president Jodie Morgan at the IFT show last summer.

1 comment (Comments are now closed)

Will take years for algae protein to become accepted

Algae is just too far out there to gain market acceptance in the short-term. You just have to look at the market's response to canola (rapeseed) protein isolates from Burcon and BXI. Canola is the healthiest oil and has a great reputation. Its protein is non-allergenic and healthy. Yet when it came down to commercializing Burcon's canola or soy, ADM chose soy. Soy is a highly established food ingredient. Meanwhile, interest in canola protein continues to languish. Protein from algae? Ewwwww.

I think algae protein promoters are overly optimistic in thinking that food makers's interest in checking it out will actually translate in its major application in food and beverage products any time soon. I say 10 years at the least.

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Posted by Steve
07 February 2013 | 20h25