The aim is to produce commercial quantities of whole algalin flour by the end of this year ahead of a January 2012 launch on both sides of the Atlantic, said Solazyme Roquette Nutritionals president Jodie Morgan.
Specialized proteins would come next in the middle of 2012, followed by fibers and oils, said Morgan, who was speaking to FoodNavigator-USA at the launch of Roquette's new innovation center in Geneva, Illinois, this week.
It’s flour, but not as we know it, Jim…
The whole algalin’ flour’ - a pale yellow powder - contains 50% lipids plus a mixture of protein, soluble and insoluble fiber, and could be used to partially or fully replace anything that was a source of fat, from egg yolk to butter or vegetable oil, she said.
“It is a really exciting product for manufacturers because it enables them to produce something low fat, low calorie, that tastes and feels amazing because it fools your mouth into thinking there is more fat. That really is the holy grail in this industry.
“Take soymilk, which many people try, but say they miss the fatty mouthfeel of cow’s milk. We can give soymilk the mouthfeel of milk by adding half a percent of our flour.”
Technical benefits notwithstanding, algae-based ingredients were also appealing to customers and end consumers because they were “non-allergenic and renewable”, noted Morgan.
A unique position
Feedback from food manufacturers testing the flour had been overwhelmingly positive, she claimed.
“In the business I used to run, it was always a challenge showing people that our products were different. This is not a problem for me any more.
“In the current economic climate, I would be worried if I were coming to market with another me-too product, but no one else is doing this. We are in a unique position.”
Saturated fat reduction
Prototypes made with algal flour sampled by FoodNavigator-USA in the spring included chocolate milk (4.5% algal flour) boasting 16% fewer calories, 66% less saturated fat, and 71% less cholesterol than its full-fat counterpart, and shortbread cookies ( 7% algal flour) with 57% less saturated fat.
Meanwhile, algal proteins could also be manipulated to meet customer requirements in a way that other proteins could not, she said.
“The great thing about algae is that we can dial in exactly what we want the protein to look like because we control the feed and the process in a way that is not possible with something like pea or whey protein.”
There would also be interesting opportunities to combine the JV’s algal-based ingredients with Roquette’s corn, pea, potato and wheat-based polyols, fibers and proteins, she said.
Plug and play
Created in November 2010 to develop innovative new food ingredients derived from microalgae, Solazyme Roquette Nutritionals is building commercial scale fermentation tanks for harvesting algae at Roquette’s starch processing facility in Lestrem, France.
While the JV is based in San Francisco, it will also establish offices at Lestrem and in Roquette’s new innovation center in Geneva, Illinois, in the coming months, said Morgan, who was appointed in March.
Lestrem was chosen as the manufacturing hub in part because of the speed with which bosses could bring new products to market through leveraging Roquette’s assets, she said.
“We’ve been producing whole algalin flour from our small scale facilities in San Francisco to provide samples for selected customers.
“But we chose Lestrem for the first commercial manufacturing site because we can plug into the infrastructure, both from an energy and waste water perspective, but also in terms of distribution, site management, regulatory affairs and quality control.”
Breaking new ground
While the algal omega-3 oils market ia starting to heat up, with two major new entrants expected to shake up the market next year, Morgan said she was not aware of any immediate competition in the algal flour space.
“Our co-founder [Harrison Dillon] was a geneticist, and also a patent attorney, so we have a large patent portfolio covering the process, product and how it is used in applications.”
When the JV had originally been formed, bosses had expected Europe to follow the US owing to regulatory factors, said Morgan.
“But we have actually been able to move faster than we originally anticipated in Europe because we do not have to go through the Novel Food Regulation."
The flour, which is self-affirmed as GRAS (generally recognized as safe) in the US, should be the subject of an FDA no objections letter next summer, she predicted.