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Roquette partners Solazyme to take microalgae mainstream

By Ben Bouckley , 09-Nov-2010

Roquette has announced a tie-up with renewable oil and bioproducts firm Solazyme to develop and commercialise microalgae-derived food ingredients from 2011.

Traditionally known for its focus on carbohydrates such as starch and sugar, Roquette has invested heavily in microalgae since 2008 and the start of its ‘Algohub’ research programme with 13 research partners, which has developed algae-based extracts such as omega-3, lutein and astaxanthin for food, food supplement and feed markets.

But Philippe Caillat, business and marketing manager, Roquette, told NutraIngredients.com that the 50/50 owned venture, named Solazyme-Roquette Nutritionals, marked a new departure for Roquette, since it would produce oil, protein and fibre-based ingredients that “address market needs for mass scale food and food ingredients”.

Mass market algae

Caillat explained that, whereas global production of microalgae was relatively small at a few thousand tonnes a year, Roquette intends “to take this one step further, to be a major actor in the micro-algae market” where in terms of potential “we are not looking at a niche market here”.

Both firms have developed microalgal nutritional platforms independently, and in a statement Roquette hailed Solazyme’s “innovative microalgae-based technology” which it claims complements its status as a global food ingredient supplier.

It added: “Roquette also possesses strong global manufacturing assets, and access to carbohydrate feedstock [for instance, sugar cane or cellulosic biomass that is used to feed algae] in multiple geographies through its network of highly efficient mills.

Caillat said:“The joint venture is not looking at specific molecules such as omega-3, which are more turned to functional foods, it will be looking at foods for everyday, microalgal ingredients that give taste, health and functionality, but are also affordable and sustainable.”

Heart healthy flours and oils

He added that the join venture would “define and advertise” specific products that target heart health (Solazyme’s specific area of expertise through algal flours and oils), by developing “products that have an impact on cholesterol, fatty acids, which are very interesting in terms of market appeal”.

Although the joint venture has, said Caillat, “no current market position on hypertension and free radicals” (other mooted health benefits for microalgae derivatives) he explained that given time, it would target further health benefits through ingredient development.

Plans are also afoot to build a jointly owned, “commercial-scale manufacturing plant with capacity in the tens of thousands of tonnes of annual production”, which Caillat confirmed would be on the site of an existing Roquette wet corn mill, although he said it was too early to speculate on its location.

“The joint venture will benefit from Roquette’s expertise with microalgae through Algohub and our [BPS] plants in Germany. It is perfectly complementary in business terms due to synergies with Solazyme,” said Caillat.

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