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Solazyme: 'We’re changing the paradigm here'

First products with high oleic algae oil to hit US shelves in second half of 2015, says Solazyme

By Elaine Watson+

25-Feb-2015
Last updated on 27-Feb-2015 at 01:08 GMT2015-02-27T01:08:24Z

Solazyme: 'We have projects in categories across the grocery store from frozen prepared foods through to bakery'
Solazyme: 'We have projects in categories across the grocery store from frozen prepared foods through to bakery'

The first products containing Solazyme’s high stability, high-oleic algae oil – which boasts “unprecedented” amounts of healthy monounsaturated fat – will hit shelves later this year, says the firm, which has just received a no objections letter from the FDA for its GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) determination  for the oil.

Mark Brooks, SVP, Solazyme Food Ingredients, told FoodNavigator-USA: “We have active customer projects with our high oleic oils and expect to see product launches in the US in the second half of this year.”

He added: “We have projects in categories across the grocery store from frozen prepared foods through to bakery. In terms of neutral flavor, color and stability, we’re finding a wide range of applications that go beyond extending fry life and produce functional benefits in areas like prepared foods.

“Our customers are finding that by switching to our high oleic oils, they can remove other preservatives from their products to achieve a cleaner label.”

The FDA letter, meanwhile, will “pave the way for mainstream adoption” of the oil, which has “unprecedented functional, performance and nutritional benefits”, he claimed.

An unprecedented amount of healthy monounsaturated fat

The high-stability, high-oleic oil - which scooped an innovation award at the IFT show in 2014 - is claimed to be unique in the food space as it has an ”unprecedented” amount (c. 90%) of monounsaturated fat (oleic acid), 6-8% saturates and less than 2% poly-unsaturates.

Labeled on the ingredients list as 'algae oil', it can be used as a food ingredient or a frying oil and has a light color and neutral flavor allowing the flavor of foods to come through, said Brooks.

“Our algae oils offer more favorable fat profiles than olive oil, and higher smoke points than canola, helping customers respond to the growing demand for great tasting and nutritious food.” 

San Francisco-based Solazyme has had ‘no questions’ letters from the FDA about its AlgaVia branded whole algal flours and protein (made in Peoria, Illinois) and its high oleic algae oils (made in Clinton, Iowa).

We’re changing the paradigm here

Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA last year, Walter G Rakitsky, PhD, SVP emerging business at the microalgae specialist, said the oil  - which is made in Clinton, Iowa - was a potential game changer.

“Think about it. We’re changing the paradigm here. If you want to develop a new soybean oil with a certain fatty acid profile through agricultural biotechnology [such as those recently developed by Monsanto and DuPont] you’re talking about a 10-15 year, $150-$200m endeavor.”

To embark on something like that, you’ve got to be supremely confident that there is a “significant market opportunity waiting for you on the other side”, and that means millions of tons of oil and major infrastructure changes across the supply chain from farmer to fork, he added.

“We can convert sugar to oil in a few days. It doesn’t have to be a decade long multi-million dollar enterprise for us.”

The high-oleic oil - which scooped an innovation award at the IFT show in 2014 - is claimed to be unique in the food space as it has an ”unprecedented” amount (c. 90%) of monounsaturated fat (oleic acid), 6-8% saturates and less than 2% poly-unsaturates. It is also ultra-stable, and could be used as a food ingredient or a frying oil.

The fermentation process

To produce Solazyme's AlgaVia branded whole algal flours and protein ingredients, frozen microalgae is thawed and used to inoculate a flask containing a broth rich in simple sugars and other nutrients, which the microalgae convert into high value oils or protein-rich whole food ingredients.

The mixture is then transferred into progressively larger vats until the desired volume is reached. Temperature, pH, agitation and aeration rates are controlled throughout the process, and when the batch is ready, the fermentation broth is harvested, concentrated, washed and/or disrupted, and then dried.

The chlorella microalgae strain used to make Solazyme's flours and proteins is not genetically engineered.  

As for the high oleic oil, and structured fats (‘algal butter’) coming next in the commercialization pipeline, these cannot be efficiently produced in native algae strains, so Solazyme uses genetic engineering techniques (eg. introducing genes from safflower, or inhibiting the production of certain enzymes in order to get more of the oil components it wants and fewer of those it doesn’t) in order to make precisely tailored oils with unique functionality.

San Francisco-based Solazyme, which has also had ‘no questions’ letters from the FDA about its AlgaVia branded whole algal flour and protein ingredients (made in Peoria, IL), is currently working on 65 food and beverage projects spanning 30+ categories.

CLICK HERE for the latest info on Solazyme's IP dispute with former partner Roquette.

Algae dream becomes reality for Solazyme: ‘Today we’re making products, not power point presentations’

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